Education

Low income and poor health tend to go hand in hand — that’s not a particularly surprising or new statement. However, according to family medicine doctor Steven Woolf, we have yet to truly grasp the extent to which income shapes a person’s health and opportunity to live a long life. And if we don’t confront the widening income inequality gap, he says things will only get worse. “There’s a general awareness that people who have poor education or low incomes have worse health outcomes, but our sense is that we don’t really appreciate the magnitude of the problem,” Woolf told me. “Every time I…
Thanks to the federal School Breakfast Program, millions of low-income children have the opportunity to start the school day with a healthy meal. But does the program impact the brain as well as the belly? A new study finds that it does, with students at participating schools scoring higher in math, reading and science. A striking illustration of the connections between nutrition and education, the study not only found higher academic scores within schools that participate in the School Breakfast Program, it also found that the effect was cumulative. In other words, the longer the school…
It's no secret that I don't have a high opinion of naturopathy. Just enter the word "naturopathy" into the search box of this blog, and you'll quickly see what I mean. Indeed, when last I mentioned the topic a couple of weeks ago, I was discussing the revelations of Britt Marie Hermes, a former naturopath who realized what a load of pseudoscientific quackery she had bought into, unfortunately, after having finished naturopathy school with a quarter million dollars of debt and having practiced for a while. Her account confirmed my impression of naturopathy as a veritable cornucopia of quackery…
Let me start off by saying something you may not know. The big corporations and the 1%ers you have learned to hate fund many of the projects you've learned to love. I have not checked lately, but Murdoch and FOX corporation for several years in a row funded at a 50% or 60% level virtually all of the National Geographic specials produced. Major museums known for their great exhibits are often funded by the very corporations or individuals that the people who love those exhibits are (often justifiably) suspicious of. The great importance of private corporate or individual funding is also a…
In the first study of its kind, researchers have found that improved air quality in southern California had a direct effect on children’s respiratory health. The findings point to the effectiveness of smart public health policy — in other words, even as southern California experienced increases in traffic and commerce, aggressive air pollution policies resulted in cleaner air and healthier kids. Published earlier this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, the study concluded that air quality improvements in the southern California communities studied were associated with significantly…
It's always a pleasure to see former students doing well, and to that end, we invited one of my former thesis students, Mike Mastroianni, class of 2007, to give a colloquium talk last week in the department. Mike went to physics grad school for a couple of years after graduation, but decided he was more interested in education issues, and is now in the process of writing his dissertation (to be defended in a few weeks) in a Curriculum and Instruction program at the University at Albany. He gave a really interesting talk on his thesis work, looking at the evolution of gender ratios in STEM…
Naturopathy is 80% quackery, 19% science-based modalities like diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes rebranded and infused with woo, and maybe 1% valid medicine. Yes, I know I'm probably being generous given that naturopathy is based on a vitalistic, prescientific worldview and originated in the 19th century German "natural living" movement, but I'm in a generous mood right now. The reason I'm in a generous mood is not because naturopathy has suddenly become less quackery than it was. Just view a few of my posts on naturopathy if you think my opinion's changed. I still believe that…
How quickly things change. If there's one thing I always feel obligated to warn my fellow pro-science advocates about vaccines and the antivaccine movement, it's that we can never rest on our laurels or assume that the tide is turning in our direction. The reason is simple: Antivaccinationism is a powerful belief system, every bit as powerful as religion and political ideology. It's powerful not just among antivaccinationists, but also because it taps into belief systems that are very much part and parcel of being an American. In fact, depressingly, yesterday I learned of a perfect example of…
Every so often, it's good to post some heartening news regarding quackery. After all, after a decade of blogging about this, preceded by five years in the trenches of Usenet battling quackery and Holocaust denial, sometimes it's hard for me not to become depressed. After all, there are times when it really does feel as though we're fighting a hopeless battle for rationality and science against unreason and harmful quackery. It's a battle worth fighting, but I'm not laboring under any delusions that it will be won in my life time or even in the lifetimes of anyone currently alive. The various…
Let's consider a hypothetical situation. Professor Jones, who has tenure, learns that a graduate student in a different department has conducted a class in a manner he finds objectionable. So Jones writes a blog post in which he attacks the graduate student by name. He uses incendiary rhetoric he could reasonably know would lead to threats, harassment and intimidation directed at the student. In describing what transpired, he makes several errors of fact that are defamatory toward the people being discussed. It is later revealed that he has done this before. That is, he has attacked…
Welcome to my latest "liberation bibliography" project. This time around I'm gathering resources concerning the recent rather worrying trend towards people not vaccinating their children. In particular the last couple of months have seen multiple cases where vaccination has been in the news, from statements by politicians, outbreaks among hockey players and at amusement parks and many others. There's been an awful lot written about vaccines and their safety recently and my aim here is to gather some of the best information, both in terms of outlining the main events as well as some commentary…
We're hiring! If you have skill in teaching, and want to hone those skills at a school with a reputation for excellence in teaching, apply! Full-Time One-Year Position in Biology University of Minnesota, Morris The University of Minnesota, Morris seeks an individual committed to excellence in undergraduate education, to fill a full-time, one-year, possibly renewable, position in biology beginning August 17, 2015. Responsibilities include: teaching undergraduate biology courses including a 2000-level survey of organismal biology for majors (with labs), an introductory-level survey of biology…
Rarely do poverty and optimal health go together. In fact, income is consistently tapped as a major factor underpinning a person’s opportunity to live a long and healthy life. And children don’t fare much better, with low-income children facing increased risks of poor health and development. So, just how many American children face this challenge today? Four out of every 10. This month, researchers at the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health released their annual “Basic Facts about Low-Income Children” fact sheet, which reports that 44…
Five years ago I blogged about a study by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education, identifying the higher education degrees that were likely to give you the best chances of a Swedish job in the period 2010-2020. This was because I complain a lot here on the blog about how useless a degree in anything even remotely similar to archaeology is, and I wanted to say something positive for a change. The careers that looked promising in 2010 were in lower-paying positions in healthcare, education and tech. Now the Swedish Public Employment Service has published a similar study of what…
I've decided to do a new round of profiles in the Project for Non-Academic Science (acronym deliberately chosen to coincide with a journal), as a way of getting a little more information out there to students studying in STEM fields who will likely end up with jobs off the "standard" academic science track. The fourteenth profile of this round (after a short hiatus for relentless book promotion) features the founder of a new crowd-funding platform for physics. 1) What is your non-academic job? I am the Founder and President of Fiat Physica, the world’s premiere physics fundraising platform.…
I've been intermittently profiling people with STEM degrees and non-academic jobs since 2009, as it turns out. One of the questions in the profile asks "What’s the most important thing you learned from science?" These have been some of the most interesting responses, so I thought it might be interesting, while I sit here and wait out a two-hour delay in the opening of the kids' schools, to compile those answers through the years. These are in roughly chronological order, and I've left the names off because... Well, mostly because I'm being lazy, but I can invent a principled reason about how…
By USA Science & Engineering Festival Nifty Fifty and X-STEM Speaker Dr. Jeff Goldstein Note: The launch of the CRS-5 is set for 6:20 am ET, January 6, on SpaceX-5 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, adjacent to Kennedy Space Center, Florida. I thought it would be important to put up a blog post on the October 28, 2014, loss of Orb-3 and the SSEP Mission 6 Yankee Clipper payload of experiments, something that could capture the experience in that moment. I think it is an important story to share with the thousands of SSEP students across the nation and in Canada who are invested in this…
For the penultimate advent calendar of science stories post, we'll turn to a great experimentalist with a great biography. This story also appears in Eureka: Discovering your Inner Scientist, but it's too good not to re-use. Chien-Shiung Wu was born in china in 1912, at right around the time education of women was first legalized. Her father founded a school for girls so he could teach her, then at around the age of 10 she went off to a boarding school, and then the best universities in the country, where she distinguished herself as one of the finest math and physics students in China. At…
I've written quite a few times, both here and elsewhere, about the sham that is known as "traditional Chinese medicine" (TCM). Basically, there is no such thing as TCM per se. There were in the distant past many "traditional Chinese medicines," various folk medicine traditions that, contrary to what is taught now, did not form a cohesive system of medicine that worked. Then, in the 1940s and 1950s, Chairman Mao Zedong, unable to provide "Western" science-based medicine to all of his people, popularized Chinese folk medicine as "traditional Chinese medicine" and exported it to the world…
The week of midterm exams is stressful for any college student. For San Francisco State student Michelle Flores, it was another stress-filled example of the unfair conditions she and millions of other retail workers face on a regular basis. Flores, a 20-year-old labor studies and public policy undergrad, is a cashier at a national grocery store chain and usually works a 24-hour week, though she’d like to work more. Just before midterms, she found out her supervisor expected her to work 30 hours the same week as her exams — and he gave her just two days notice. “I said I'd work them,” she said…