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May 6th, 2016 by Joel Watts

DRAFT: Lit. Review, Science Modeling Attitudes

This is a rough draft of a required Literature Review (pdf) for one of my classes. The subject is near and dear to me, of course. One particular aspect? The report by Bartkowski, Xu, & Levin (2007) on the modeling of discussion v. argument. It is supposed to be proposed research which explains why it looks like it does.

Abstract

modeling in science education

Logo of the Office of Science Education, part of the United States National Institutes of Health. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This paper seeks to answer the following question: What effect does modeling behavior have in the reception of scientific data, especially in regards to evolution and climate change? After an examination of recent studies on the effects of modeled behavior, with such behaviors identified either as science-positive or science-negative, by both educators and parents on the displayed attitudes of students, a phenomenological methodology is proposed in order to collected data via person-to-person interviews to construct a narrative. Specifically, the research seeks to examine two current discussion points in science and national science standards, evolution and anthropologically driven global climate change. Research results are then summarized, indicating modeled behavior create expectations of science reception in students, with negative attitudes by one or both models driving down the ability of the student to meet national science standards. All aspects of the paper are done with respect to examining the phenomena in West Virginia. Discussion is limited to specific results and transferability is noted. 

Introduction

            The 2015 Bayer Facts of Science Education Surveys reveals a lack of science education in the schools of the United States while a report by Pennsylvania State Survey Research Center (SRC) and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reveal attitudes by science educators hindering proper science instruction. The 2015 survey reveals a consensus that more emphasis should be placed on science education, among educators (61%) and parents (40%). In regards to educators, the SRC-NCSE report reveal a lack of proper understanding on several important science standards, specifically global climate change, where 77.4% of educators report some form of refusal or inadequate teaching of this subject. In regards to attitudes of educators, 2% denied climate change exists, 15% believe it is completely natural, and 15% believe climate change is produced by both human and natural causes. In regards to evolution, 28% of educators consistently teach evolution compared to 13% who advocate for creationism. On the other hand, 60% of educators simply take no stand, which Berkman and Plutzer as playing a “far more important role in hindering scientific literacy” (Berkman & Plutzer, 2012). More locally, West Virginia has received a “D” in science preparation, noting that West Virginia “flirts with creationism” (Finn & MaGee, 2012, 191–195). In recent standards changes, West Virginia’s Board of Education is attempting to remove inferences and evidences of anthropologically driven climate change (Eyre, 2016).

While the author of this paper believes it is necessary to reform science curriculum, I also believe it is necessary to first examine the attitudes of both parents and educators and the role they play in reception of science education by students. This study will examine students, specifically in West Virginia, for transference of negative attitudes towards science and ask the question: What effect does modeling behavior have in the reception of scientific data, especially in regards to evolution and climate change?

Review of Current Literature

            Berkman and Plutzer (2012) note that within the coming decade, the number of decisions based on science to be made by the public and leaders in the United States will greatly increase. They likewise note that students are increasingly seeing science as a matter of opinion. According to a 2005 Pew Research study, a majority (57%) of the American public believed creationism (that the earth is less than 10,000 years old) should be taught in public schools as science alongside evolution. Berkman and Plutzer (2012) note that according to the report, 33% of the American public believes creation should be taught as science, ignoring evolution completely. The authors draw the reason to religious fundamentalism. The Coalition of Scientific Societies likewise notes the role Christian fundamentalism plays in the public reception of evolution and other scientific data (2008). Miller, Scott & Okamoto (2006) are able to establish a direct correlation between the religious beliefs about science with its reception in the American public. The National Academy of Sciences believes that a positive teaching “offers educators a superb opportunity to illuminate the nature of science and to differentiate science from other forms of human endeavor and understanding” (1998). Taylor, Jones, Broadwell, & Oppewal (2008) showed the need for science instruction creativity, by introducing scientists to educators to foster a new teaching method, with educators indicating that after introduction, their understanding and instruction methods had changed.

According to Scheitle (2011), undergraduates are likely to come to understand that science and religion are not necessarily at odds as they progress through coursework. But, this conflict narrative is identifiable earlier, especially in middle school where the views about science are starting to be determined (Kitts, 2009). Long notes that it is during this time educator’s attitudes, either science-positive or science-negative, begin to affect the students (2012). Further, Long notes that the inculcation of religious views against science begin to firm up in early adolescence, so much so that the worth of later attempts to improve science-positive metacognitions is questioned (Long, 2011; Winslow, Staver, & Scharman, 2011). Science-negative attitudes may emerge early and thus become ingrained not because of active enforcement by guardians, but because of a passive form of control (Long, 2011, p. 72). However, the same passive perspective manipulation may be used to produce science-positive attitudes. Mooney (2011), in examining how perspectives can be changed via science-positive attitude notes that “Conservatives are more likely to embrace climate science if it comes to them via a business or religious leader, who can set the issue in the context of different values than those from which environmentalists or scientists often argue.”

Yalacki (2010) argues that rather than looking beliefs and practices of educators, assessors should examine value and value systems, so that while Yalacki understand the role educators play in forming the attitudes of the students, countering it must begin with the value placed on science rather than particular beliefs or instruction method on any particular topic. It is this value system that must be examined in light of Losh & Nzekwe (2010) who found that future educators saw little to no value in science, which informed belief systems in as much as they saw no point in educating themselves, mirroring, somewhat, the adolescent view as identified by Kitts (2009). This view is that while middle school students saw value in scientists, expressing admiration, they saw little to no value in studying science. In one study, pre-service educators showed an unwillingness to engage in critical literacy on controversial topics (Smith & Lennon, 2011), leading the researchers to recommend various new instructional methods.

Thus far, I have attempted to establish the opinion that educators are in fact playing a part in science reception among students. What is revealed is that an identifiable portion of educators does not teach controversial topics, hold to what may be called pseudoscience, or place little to no value on science as a whole. As noted above, these methods aid in enforcing the lack of need for appreciating science among students. I will now turn to the role of parents in devaluing scientific education.

As noted above, parental control is sometimes passive, but even in this it has a purpose beyond passing down generational views and family traditions. As Stokes & Regnerus (2008) has pointed out, when parents and their children share the same religious beliefs, family discord is reduced. I therefore suggest that the value of the child, to be accepted by the parents, is greater than the value of science, especially if science is not the value of the parents or if science is counter the values of the parents.

Bartkowski, Xu, & Levin (2007) have shown that religion does have a cognitive effect on the development of children and adolescents. They note that the difference comes from the difference between discussion and argument, “The frequency of religious discussions significantly bolsters children’s cognitive development in the household setting, while arguments about religion significantly undermine it” and “Frequent parent–child discussions about religion often yield positive effects on child development, while any effects associated with family arguments about religion are deleterious for children.” Therefore, I propose that the more rigid a religious sect is, the more likely arguments are to occur, leading to a more science-negative attitude in the home.

Christian fundamentalism, specifically of the Protestant variety, has been shown to shape children and adolescent views in relation to education. Sherkat & Darnell (1999) have shown how religion places constraints on educational options. Values dictate that college preparatory curriculum is avoided, especially in the more fundamentalist (strict sectarian) households, producing students avoiding certain subjects altogether. Evans (2000) is able to establish a pattern of beliefs regarding the origin of life as a merge of “community beliefs and age-related changes.” Regnerus (2003), after a review of more recent research, has produced similar results. Unfortunately, there has been little recent research in this area, which is now necessary given not only increased issues with such things as climate change, but so too a paradigm shift in information availability which has created a different social world for adolescents (Mesch & Talmud, 2010).

Given the need for scientifically literate adults, the need for understanding how science-positive attitudes are nurtured is prevalent. The research will examine two role models in the adolescent’s life, the educator and the parent, in order to access where the most effective intervention may lie, in order that proper interventions may be developed to address science-negative attitudes.

Methods

For this study, I will need to utilize in-depth interview techniques to understand “how human beings make sense of experience and transform experience into consciousness” (Patton, 2014, p. 115) given that it is very much the phenomena of modeling attitudes I propose affecting attitudes of science reception. As I research I will conduct pointed interviews with participants, gathering needed data that will be coded using an established model. Participants will be selected based on grades and classroom performance after a short interview with the educator, where the focus questions will be two fold. First, I will want to identity likely students based on the above-mentioned guidelines. I will look at high achievers and students who make average grades, assuming a 5-letter grading scale. The sample size will seek to represent equally male and female students, students across various economic statuses, and students who stand in various religions or forms of their particular religion. Once the initial students are chosen, I will from among those create a sample where students are then selected based on their grades in other classes, so that the student who is averaging a “C” in science classes will be selected if their other classes show high achievement. Exclude will be students who identify with certain disabilities and those with established behavioral issues. Following Polkinghorne (1989), my sample size will be at least 25 of those who have approximately similar phenomenological experiences (Green & Christensen, 2006). After a sample has been secured, I will then ask the educators as to their views and instruction methods on science as a whole and then in regards specifically to evolution and global climate change.

To ensure safety and privacy, I will ask a school counselor, whom I will also inform of the methodology of this study, to be present during student interviews. Students will not be named in the study, but identified by a randomly assigned number. Parents will be informed and consent sought.

I will collect data via individual interviews, with each interview focusing on two aspects, the educator’s attitude as well as the parental. In regards to the latter, parental involvement in homework assignments will be measured as well as political and religious viewpoints, or lack thereof. This will be gathered through informational queries, such as asking specific questions regarding evolution and global climate change and the views representative of different viewpoints of those issues, such as “Evolution states the earth is four billion years old. Is this true or false in your opinion?” Keywords, such as “bible” or “young earth” or misuse of the word “theory” will be noted and catalogued. Particular care will be given to note facial reactions as well as body language in regards to specific lines of questioning. Data review will follow the outline for phenomenological interpretation established by Merriam & Associates (2002).

I note my bias against science-negative attitudes as well as my pro-religion and spirituality stance. I have attempted to write the question prompts to emit any bias by soliciting advice from the local IRB, engaging educators, religious leaders, and other counselors.

Discussion of (Possible) Outcome

After the examination was completed, a narrative was constructed. I found 63% of students who exhibited science-negative attitudes via grades had had those attitudes modeled by a parent while 35% of students reported negative modeling by educators. Only 5% of students who received negative modeling from both parents and educators were able to earn above average grades only 2 students reported they “lied to get an A,” and action their science-negative parents encouraged. This comports with previous studies conducted by Long (Long, 2011, p. 36).

Educators who exhibited science-negative attitudes did so by shrinking instruction time, removing hands on activities, and by presenting counter arguments, often times with a 3-to-1 time difference. Further, educators would note that if they did not accept current theories on evolution and/or global climate change, they would often grade students easier on particular questions. Finally, 73% of educators with science-positive attitudes would teach according to science standards but admitted to not engaging controversial statements by students in the classroom or on tests because of the political climate. This must be examined in future studies, since this study sampled students by grades prima facie. Following the suggestion of Taylor, Jones, Broadwell, & Oppewal (2008), this study supports the suggested need for continued interaction between educators and scientists to develop not only positive instructional methods, but to also help change science-negative attitudes among educators.

The outcome reveals that modeled attitudes by authority figures, especially in regards to science and major scientific theories, are transferred to students at least in West Virginia. On the issue of transferability of this study, it is recommended cautiously, given that the study was accomplished with a near strict dichotomy applied to viewpoints by the author of this report. Further, the research was conducted only in West Virginia, a largely rural, Christian, and White state. I also note that parents were not interviewed.

This research should help not only school counselors and curriculum counselors identify and prioritize values among educators, but should serve mental health counselors in understanding the role religious attitudes of authority figures in the life of developing adolescents. It is a given that mental health counselors will have adolescents in their care, directed either by parents or the courts. It would be helpful to understand the cognitive environment fostering some of the client’s development and reception to science or perceived scientific methods. Future studies should examine the perception of medical and counseling professions among adolescents in strict sectarian families.

References

Bartkowski, J. P., Xu, X., & Levin, M. L. (2008). Religion and child development: Evidence from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. Social Science Research, 37(1), 18–36. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2007.02.001

Berkman, M., & Plutzer, E., (2008, Fall) “The Polls—Trends: Evolution, Creationism, and the Teaching of Human Origins in Schools,” Public Opinion Quarterly 72, no. 3: 540–553

Berkman, M., & Plutzer, E., (2010) Evolution, Creationism, and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Berkman, M., & Plutzer, E. (2012, June). An Evolving Controversy: The Struggle to Teach Science in Science Classes. American Educator, 36(2), P12-17, 20-23, 40.

Coalition of Scientific Societies. (2008). Evolution and Its Discontents: A Role for Scientists in Science Education. The FASEB Journal, 22(1), 1–4. http://doi.org/10.1096/fj.08-0101ufm

Evans, E. M. (2000). The Emergence of Beliefs About the Origins of Species in School-Age Children. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 46(2), 221–254.

Eyre, E. (2016, February 26). WV House OKs block on science standards over global warming. Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Finn, C. E., & Porter-MaGee, K. (2012). The state of state science standards. Washington, D.C.: Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Green, E., & Christensen, T. M. (2006). Elementary school children’s perceptions of play therapy in school settings. International Journal of Play Therapy, 15 (1), 65–85.

Kitts, K. (2009). The Paradox of Middle and High School Students’ Attitudes Towards Science Versus Their Attitudes About Science as a Career. Journal of Geoscience Education: March 2009, Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 159-164. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5408/1.3544253

Losh, S. C., & Nzekwe, B. (2010). Creatures in the Classroom: Preservice Teacher Beliefs About Fantastic Beasts, Magic, Extraterrestrials, Evolution and Creationism. Science & Education, 20(5-6), 473–489. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11191-010-9268-5

Long, D. (2011). Evolution and religion in American education: An ethnography. Dordrecht: Springer.

Long, D. E. (2012). The politics of teaching evolution, science education standards, and Being a creationist. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 49(1), 122–139. http://doi.org/10.1002/tea.20445

Merriam, S. B., & Associates. (2002). Qualitative research in practice: Examples for discussion and analysis. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Mesch, G., & Talmud, I. (2010). Wired Youth: The Social World of Adolescence in the Information Age (1 edition). London ; New York: Routledge.

Miller, J. D., Scott, E. C., Okamoto, S. (2006) Science communication. Public acceptance of evolution. Science 313, 765–766.

Mooney, C. (2011). The science of why we don’t believe science: How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link. Mother Jones. May/June.

National Academy of Sciences, (1998). Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science National Academy of Sciences, National Academies Press, Washington, DC.

Patton, M. Q. (2014). Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods: Integrating Theory and Practice (4 edition). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Plutzer, E., Mccaffrey, M., Hannah, A. L., Rosenau, J., Berbeco, M., & Reid, A. H.

(2016). Climate confusion among U.S. teachers. Science, 351(6274), 664-665. doi:10.1126/science.aab3907.

Polkinghorne, D. E. (1989). Phenomenological research methods. In R. S. Valle & S. Halling (Eds.), Existential-phenomenological perspectives in psychology: Exploring the breadth of human experi- ence (pp. 41–60). New York: Plenum Press.

Regnerus, M. D. (2003). Religion and Positive Adolescent Outcomes: A Review of Research and Theory. Review of Religious Research, 44(4), 394–413. http://doi.org/10.2307/3512217

Scheitle, C. P. (2011). U.S. College Students’ Perception of Religion and Science: Conflict, Collaboration, or Independence? A Research Note. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50(1), 175–186. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2010.01558.x

Sherkat, D. E., & Darnell, A. (1999). The Effect of Parents’ Fundamentalism on Children’s Educational Attainment: Examining Differences by Gender and Children’s Fundamentalism. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 38(1), 23–35. http://doi.org/10.2307/1387581

Smith, A. M., & Lennon, S. (2011). Preparing Student Teachers to Address Complex Learning and Controversy with Middle Grades Students. International Journal of Progressive Education, 7(2), 33–51.

Stokes, C. E., & Regnerus, M. D. (2009). When faith divides family: Religious discord and adolescent reports of parent–child relations. Social Science Research, 38(1), 155–167. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2008.05.002

Taylor, A. R., Jones, M. G., Broadwell, B., & Oppewal, T. (2008). Creativity, inquiry, or accountability? Scientists’ and teachers’ perceptions of science education. Science Education, 92(6), 1058–1075. http://doi.org/10.1002/sce.20272

Winslow, M., Staver, J., & Scharman, L. (2011). Evolution and personal religious belief: Christian university biology-related majors’ search for reconciliation. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 48(9), 1026–1049.

Yalaki, Y. (2010). Value Systems: A Better Way to Understand Science Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices? Hacettepe University Journal of Education, 39, 359–370.

March 7th, 2015 by Milton Almeida

My fellow #Americans

American Flag

American Flag

My Fellow Americans:

After reading in a few news outlets that the students of a certain university (mush brains being mushed brained) are removing the glorious AMERICAN FLAG from their campuses to make it MORE INCLUSIVE, I decided, as an AMERICAN BY THE WILL AND GRACE OF GOD to write this as A FAVOR for all those tho go to extremes in this INCLUSIVE PURSUIT so they know that what foreigners may not want is exactly the purge of anything that indicates that they are indeed in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!

When they went to the Consular Offices, or Embassies to get their visas to come to America, they stood in line, paid fees, sacrificed their time to proudly earn the right to come, not to a foreign country of any sort, but AMERICA!
When their write to their moms and dads, they proudly do not say, “I am in a foreign country” – rather, they say I AM IN AMERICA, proudly!
When their moms and dads, grandma, grandpa, tell their buddies that they have a son, a daughter, a grandson or granddaughter studying in a foreign country, they don’t simply say, a foreign country; they say “my….. is a student IN AMERICA, IN THE USA!
When these students write to buddies they BRAG about being, NOT in any foreign country, but IN AMERICA!
They may say whatever they say about America among themselves, but no one brought them here, it wasn’t easy to be here, it wasn’t cheap to be here, but they are here and THEY ARE PROUD OF BEING IN AMERICA!
So, this “inclusiveness” is because these students: (1) don’t know the mentality of a foreign; (2) they themselves are ashamed of being from a country where every other foreign is proud of being, or else they wouldn’t be here! So, “inclusiveness” is childish, disrespectful, disrespectful of everyone accomplishments, and disregarding of all the sacrifices involved to be here, in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. As a “former” foreigner whom God Blessed with the American Citizenship, I say, FLY THAT FLAG HIGH! REMIND ME EVERY MOMENT THAT I AM IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! You’re welcome!

January 22nd, 2015 by Milton Almeida

What to say about Christian #nihilism?

This article, written by a member of the World Reformed Fellowship (I am a member) serves a full plate of food for thought  about, perhaps, an explanation for the “clash of civilizations”.

Read the article here

September 3rd, 2014 by h00die_R (Rod)

Unsettled Christianity and Settler Colonialism

Everyone repeats the same line: Sunday is the most segregated day of the week, and remains so. Why does some Christians fight so hard for racial justice, and others do not? This is a question that has been going through my mind a lot recently. God made all human beings in God’s image, the Imago Dei. Every person is of invaluable worth. This is an enduring truth of Christian tradition passed on for centuries. Racism is a denial of not only the Imago Dei in every human being, but also, a denial of Christ’s resurrection. In order for racism to be a persistent force in U.S. American politics, systems of death targeting specific populations (primarily People of Color) must take root as the norm. When they go unchallenged by the Church, that is a denial of the Gospel, the Good News of Christ’s victory of sin, Satan, and death, and God’s work of reconciling us to each other.

One of the many sins that Christians refuse to repent of is that of the genocide of First Nations persons. These wars and injustices are relegated to the past, as professor Andrea Smith points out, rather than instances of the present as well. Smith puts it this way, “One possible reason that the “exception” of Native genocide is not fully explored is that it is relegated to the past. That is, Omi and Winant argue that the United States has shifted from a racial dictatorship characterised by “the mass murder and expulsion of indigenous peoples” to a racial democracy in which “the balance of coercion began to change”.9 Essentially, the problem of Native genocide and settler colonialism today disappears.” for more see : Indigeneity, Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy. The laws in which our First Nations sisters and brothers live under were made under the presumption that, #1, Native Americans were not Christian, and therefore not American, and #2, that First Nations people were not competent enough to rule themselves. Unfortunately, Christians in the past as well as today are far more invested in the nation-state than they were/are in the Gospel. What we as the Church need is a commitment to the Gospel of the Unsettling God who calls us to oppose the White Supremacist nation-state for the cause of justice, and to work towards a more just and loving community.

April 7th, 2014 by Milton Almeida

A Muslim protecting Christian doctrine; Unknowingly!

Read here

nj-easter-egg-huntI said it once and I will say it again! Those who devise non bibilically prescribed customs and feasts to the Christian faith are the ones who are “doing the work of the devil” reducing Christianity into a “fairy tale” with Santa Claus, Eastern Bunny and, of course, egg hunts, and certainly a few other childish parties.

Oh, of course these are such innocent things that they will hardly affect anyone, or any child’s forming faith, right? Wrong! You talk to your children about the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, along with teaching them about Jesus, then you expect that they will grow up and filter off the childish things and realize that none of these characters are real and for some miraculous reason, you hope that they will keep Jesus as a “truthful” character… What a hope!

Before you say it, as an avowed Calvinist I shouldn’t worry because after all God will preserve his own. It is right there in the “P” of T.U.L.I.P, or, “perseverance, (also preservation) of the saints, right? Wrong again! Yes, God will preserve His own but that doesn’t relieve you of your parent responsibility in raising your child in the most pure form of Christian faith!

Oh, I am all in favor of enjoying our liberty in Christ and I am all against legalism in any subtle or conspicuous form it rears its ugly head (and legalism’s head is in the rear), so, I am not talking about turning your child into an outcast, devoid of contact with society, and not participating in some “innocent” play, although such an “innocence” is debatable. What I am talking about is this militant stance in defending these types of activities not prescribed in the Bible as if they were somehow to be revered as something directly from heaven’s throne room! And how some do that? Answer: by calling anyone who opposes to such celebration a “anti-Christian” waging a “war on Christianity”, especially if one is not a Christian.

I said it before and I will say it again: God has used anyone to speak for Him, including a donkey, and God will also use those who are currently the enemies of His Gospel if that is what it takes to remove the attention from a stupid egg hunt that, in my view, a Church should not be promoting, and make the Church really turn their attention to what we are celebrating that day, that is, if we indeed celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. When a Muslim is outraged because of something that he was told is a Christian thing, read that outrage as perhaps God speaking through a donkey preventing us from turning the Gospel into a fairy tale sort of nursery rhyme, devoid of its meaningful and sacred and eternal meaning, and the ever changing power that it has been through the ages. Think about it!

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