The level of public acceptance of evolution in the United States is now solidly above the halfway mark, according to a new study based on a series of national public opinion surveys conducted over the last 35 years.
“From 1985 to 2010, there was a statistical dead heat between acceptance and rejection of evolution,” said lead researcher Jon D. Miller of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. “But acceptance then surged, becoming the majority position in 2016.”
Examining data over 35 years, the study consistently identified aspects of education—civic science literacy, taking college courses in science and having a college degree—as the strongest factors leading to the acceptance of evolution.
“Almost twice as many Americans held a college degree in 2018 as in 1988,” said co-author Mark Ackerman, a researcher at Michigan Engineering, the U-M School of Information and Michigan Medicine. “It’s hard to earn a college degree without acquiring at least a little respect for the success of science.”
The researchers analyzed a collection of biennial surveys from the National Science Board, several national surveys funded by units of the National Science Foundations, and a series focused on adult civic literacy funded by NASA. Beginning in 1985, these national samples of U.S. adults were asked to agree or disagree with this statement: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”
The series of surveys showed that Americans were evenly divided on the question of evolution from 1985 to 2007. According to a 2005 study of the acceptance of evolution in 34 developed nations, led by Miller, only Turkey, at 27%, scored lower than the United States. But over the last decade, until 2019, the percentage of American adults who agreed with this statement increased from 40% to 54%.
The current study consistently identified religious fundamentalism as the strongest factor leading to the rejection of evolution. While their numbers declined slightly in the last decade, approximately 30% of Americans continue to be religious fundamentalists as defined in the study. But even those who scored highest on the scale of religious fundamentalism shifted toward acceptance of evolution, rising from 8% in 1988 to 32% in 2019.
Miller predicted that religious fundamentalism would continue to impede the public acceptance of evolution.
“Such beliefs are not only tenacious but also, increasingly, politicized,” he said, citing a widening gap between Republican and Democratic acceptance of evolution.
As of 2019, 34% of conservative Republicans accepted evolution compared to 83% of liberal Democrats.
The study is published in the journal Public Understanding of Science.
Besides Miller and Ackerman, the authors are Eugenie Scott and Glenn Branch of the National Center for Science Education; Belén Laspra of the University of Oviedo in Spain; and Carmelo Polino of the University of Oviedo and Centre Redes in Argentina; and Jordan Huffaker of U-M.
A recent study finds that social inequality persists, regardless of educational achievement – particularly for men.
“Education is not the equalizer that many people think it is,” says Anna Manzoni, author of the study and an associate professor of sociology at North Carolina State University.
The study aimed to determine the extent to which a parent’s social status gives an advantage to their children. The research used the educational achievements of parents as a proxy for social status, and looked at the earnings of adult children as a proxy for professional success.
To address the research question, Manzoni examined data from people who were interviewed as part of the National Survey of College Graduates between 2010 and 2017. Specifically, Manzoni focused on United States citizens between 35 and 67 years old who reported on their wages and parental education. The final sample size was 56,819 individuals: 32,337 men and 24,482 women.
The analysis found that if a son gets a degree similar to the degree that a parent had, the son will earn more money than if his parent did not achieve the same level of education.
For example, imagine that Son A becomes a doctor, and he had a parent who was also a doctor. Meanwhile, Son B also becomes a doctor, but his parents only had bachelor’s degrees. The study found that, in general, Son A will earn more money than Son B, even though they have the same degree.
This effect also exists for daughters, but it is much weaker.
“The effect we see here essentially preserves social stratification for sons – less so for daughters,” Manzoni says. “We like to think that if someone makes it to college, becomes a lawyer, becomes a doctor, they have ‘made it.’ But what we see is that even earning an advanced degree is unlikely to put you on the same professional footing as someone who earned the same degree but started higher on the social ladder.
“One take-away is that expanding access to education is valuable, but education alone is not enough to resolve our society’s challenges in regard to inequality,” Manzoni says.
“This work shows that social origin matters, but it’s not clear what drives this structural inequality,” Manzoni adds. “Is it social capital? Access to networks? Differing financial resources? Is parental background becoming more important as a larger percentage of the population is getting a college degree? Is the advantage at the beginning of a child’s career? There is still a lot of room for additional research on this subject.”
The paper, “Equalizing or Stratifying? Intergenerational Persistence across College Degrees,” appears in the Journal of Higher Education.
Children who experienced compassionate parenting were more generous than peers
Date: December 1, 2020
Source: University of California – Davis
Summary: Young children who have experienced compassionate love and empathy from their mothers may be more willing to turn thoughts into action by being generous to others, a University of California, Davis, study suggests. Lab studies were done of children at ages 4 and 6.
Young children who have experienced compassionate love and empathy from their mothers may be more willing to turn thoughts into action by being generous to others, a University of California, Davis, study suggests.
In lab studies, children tested at ages 4 and 6 showed more willingness to give up the tokens they had earned to fictional children in need when two conditions were present — if they showed bodily changes when given the opportunity to share and had experienced positive parenting that modeled such kindness. The study initially included 74 preschool-age children and their mothers. They were invited back two years later, resulting in 54 mother-child pairs whose behaviors and reactions were analyzed when the children were 6.
“At both ages, children with better physiological regulation and with mothers who expressed stronger compassionate love were likely to donate more of their earnings,” said Paul Hastings, UC Davis professor of psychology and the mentor of the doctoral student who led the study. “Compassionate mothers likely develop emotionally close relationships with their children while also providing an early example of prosocial orientation toward the needs of others,” researchers said in the study.
The study was published in November in Frontiers in Psychology: Emotion Science. Co-authors were Jonas G. Miller, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University (who was a UC Davis doctoral student when the study was written); Sarah Kahle of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, UC Davis; and Natalie R. Troxel, now at Facebook.
In each lab exercise, after attaching a monitor to record children’s heart-rate activity, the examiner told the children they would be earning tokens for a variety of activities, and that the tokens could be turned in for a prize. The tokens were put into a box, and each child eventually earned 20 prize tokens. Then before the session ended, children were told they could donate all or part of their tokens to other children (in the first instance, they were told these were for sick children who couldn’t come and play the game, and in the second instance, they were told the children were experiencing a hardship.)
At the same time, mothers answered questions about their compassionate love for their children and for others in general. The mothers selected phrases in a survey such as:
“I would rather engage in actions that help my child than engage in actions that would help me.”
“Those whom I encounter through my work and public life can assume that I will be there if they need me.”
“I would rather suffer myself than see someone else (a stranger) suffer.”
Taken together, the findings showed that children’s generosity is supported by the combination of their socialization experiences — their mothers’ compassionate love — and their physiological regulation, and that these work like “internal and external supports for the capacity to act prosocially that build on each other.”
The results were similar at ages 4 and 6.
In addition to observing the children’s propensity to donate their game earnings, the researchers observed that being more generous also seemed to benefit the children. At both ages 4 and 6, the physiological recording showed that children who donated more tokens were calmer after the activity, compared to the children who donated no or few tokens. They wrote that “prosocial behaviors may be intrinsically effective for soothing one’s own arousal.” Hastings suggested that “being in a calmer state after sharing could reinforce the generous behavior that produced that good feeling.”
This work was supported by the Fetzer Institute, Mindfulness Connections, and the National Institute of Mental Health.
Jonas G. Miller, Sarah Kahle, Natalie R. Troxel, Paul D. Hastings. The Development of Generosity From 4 to 6 Years: Examining Stability and the Biopsychosocial Contributions of Children’s Vagal Flexibility and Mothers’ Compassion. Frontiers in Psychology, 2020; 11 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.590384
For more than 30 years, the Inuit welcomed anthropologist Jean Briggs into their lives so she could study how they raise their children. Briggs is pictured during a 1974 visit to Baffin Island. Jean Briggs Collection / American Philosophical Society
Back in the 1960s, a Harvard graduate student made a landmark discovery about the nature of human anger.
At age 34, Jean Briggs traveled above the Arctic Circle and lived out on the tundra for 17 months. There were no roads, no heating systems, no grocery stores. Winter temperatures could easily dip below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Briggs persuaded an Inuit family to “adopt” her and “try to keep her alive,” as the anthropologist wrote in 1970.
At the time, many Inuit families lived similar to the way their ancestors had for thousands of years. They built igloos in the winter and tents in the summer. “And we ate only what the animals provided, such as fish, seal and caribou,” says Myna Ishulutak, a film producer and language teacher who lived a similar lifestyle as a young girl.
Briggs quickly realized something remarkable was going on in these families: The adults had an extraordinary ability to control their anger.
“They never acted in anger toward me, although they were angry with me an awful lot,” Briggs told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview.
Even just showing a smidgen of frustration or irritation was considered weak and childlike, Briggs observed.
For instance, one time someone knocked a boiling pot of tea across the igloo, damaging the ice floor. No one changed their expression. “Too bad,” the offender said calmly and went to refill the teapot.
In another instance, a fishing line — which had taken days to braid — immediately broke on the first use. No one flinched in anger. “Sew it together,” someone said quietly.
By contrast, Briggs seemed like a wild child, even though she was trying very hard to control her anger. “My ways were so much cruder, less considerate and more impulsive,” she told the CBC. “[I was] often impulsive in an antisocial sort of way. I would sulk or I would snap or I would do something that they never did.”
Briggs, who died in 2016, wrote up her observations in her first book, Never in Anger. But she was left with a lingering question: How do Inuit parents instill this ability in their children? How do Inuit take tantrum-prone toddlers and turn them into cool-headed adults?
Then in 1971, Briggs found a clue.
She was walking on a stony beach in the Arctic when she saw a young mother playing with her toddler — a little boy about 2 years old. The mom picked up a pebble and said, “‘Hit me! Go on. Hit me harder,'” Briggs remembered.
The boy threw the rock at his mother, and she exclaimed, “Ooooww. That hurts!”
Briggs was completely befuddled. The mom seemed to be teaching the child the opposite of what parents want. And her actions seemed to contradict everything Briggs knew about Inuit culture.
“I thought, ‘What is going on here?’ ” Briggs said in the radio interview.
Turns out, the mom was executing a powerful parenting tool to teach her child how to control his anger — and one of the most intriguing parenting strategies I’ve come across.
No scolding, no timeouts
It’s early December in the Arctic town of Iqaluit, Canada. And at 2 p.m., the sun is already calling it a day. Outside, the temperature is a balmy minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. A light snow is swirling.
I’ve come to this seaside town, after reading Briggs’ book, in search of parenting wisdom, especially when it comes to teaching children to control their emotions. Right off the plane, I start collecting data.
I sit with elders in their 80s and 90s while they lunch on “country food” —stewed seal, frozen beluga whale and raw caribou. I talk with moms selling hand-sewn sealskin jackets at a high school craft fair. And I attend a parenting class, where day care instructors learn how their ancestors raised small children hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of years ago.
Across the board, all the moms mention one golden rule: Don’t shout or yell at small children.
Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender. If you took all the parenting styles around the world and ranked them by their gentleness, the Inuit approach would likely rank near the top.(They even have a special kiss for babies, where you put your nose against the cheek and sniff the skin.)
The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate, says Lisa Ipeelie, a radio producer and mom who grew up with 12 siblings. “When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice,” she says. “It will just make your own heart rate go up.”
Even if the child hits you or bites you, there’s no raising your voice?
“No,” Ipeelie says with a giggle that seems to emphasize how silly my question is. “With little kids, you often think they’re pushing your buttons, but that’s not what’s going on. They’re upset about something, and you have to figure out what it is.”
Traditionally, the Inuit saw yelling at a small child as demeaning. It’s as if the adult is having a tantrum; it’s basically stooping to the level of the child, Briggs documented.
Elders I spoke with say intense colonization over the past century is damaging these traditions. And, so, the community is working hard to keep the parenting approach intact.
Goota Jaw is at the front line of this effort. She teaches the parenting class at the Arctic College. Her own parenting style is so gentle that she doesn’t even believe in giving a child a timeout for misbehaving.
“Shouting, ‘Think about what you just did. Go to your room!’ ” Jaw says. “I disagree with that. That’s not how we teach our children. Instead you are just teaching children to run away.”
And you are teaching them to be angry, says clinical psychologist and author Laura Markham. “When we yell at a child — or even threaten with something like ‘I’m starting to get angry,’ we’re training the child to yell,” says Markham. “We’re training them to yell when they get upset and that yelling solves problems.”
In contrast, parents who control their own anger are helping their children learn to do the same, Markham says. “Kids learn emotional regulation from us.”
I asked Markham if the Inuit’s no-yelling policy might be their first secret of raising cool-headed kids. “Absolutely,” she says.
Playing soccer with your head
Now at some level, all moms and dads know they shouldn’t yell at kids. But if you don’t scold or talk in an angry tone, how do you discipline? How do you keep your 3-year-old from running into the road? Or punching her big brother?
For thousands of years, the Inuit have relied on an ancient tool with an ingenious twist: “We use storytelling to discipline,” Jaw says.
Jaw isn’t talking about fairy tales, where a child needs to decipher the moral. These are oral stories passed down from one generation of Inuit to the next, designed to sculpt kids’ behaviors in the moment.Sometimes even save their lives.
For example, how do you teach kids to stay away from the ocean, where they could easily drown? Instead of yelling, “Don’t go near the water!” Jaw says Inuit parents take a pre-emptive approach and tell kids a special story about what’s inside the water. “It’s the sea monster,” Jaw says, with a giant pouch on its back just for little kids.
“If a child walks too close to the water, the monster will put you in his pouch, drag you down to the ocean and adopt you out to another family,” Jaw says.
“Then we don’t need to yell at a child,” Jaw says, “because she is already getting the message.”
Inuit parents have an array of stories to help children learn respectful behavior, too. For example, to get kids to listen to their parents, there is a story about ear wax, says film producer Myna Ishulutak.
“My parents would check inside our ears, and if there was too much wax in there, it meant we were not listening,” she says.
And parents tell their kids: If you don’t ask before taking food, long fingers could reach out and grab you, Ishulutak says.
Then there’s the story of northern lights, which helps kids learn to keep their hats on in the winter.
“Our parents told us that if we went out without a hat, the northern lights are going to take your head off and use it as a soccer ball,” Ishulutak says. “We used to be so scared!” she exclaims and then erupts in laughter.
At first, these stories seemed to me a bit too scary for little children. And my knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss them. But my opinion flipped 180 degrees after I watched my own daughter’s response to similar tales — and after I learned more about humanity’s intricate relationship with storytelling.
Oral storytelling is what’s known as a human universal. For tens of thousands of years, it has been a key way that parents teach children about values and how to behave.
Modern hunter-gatherer groups use stories to teach sharing, respect for both genders and conflict avoidance, a recent study reported, after analyzing 89 stories from nine different tribes in Southeast Asia and Africa. With the Agta, a hunter-gatherer population of the Philippines, good storytelling skills are prized more than hunting skills or medicinal knowledge, the study found.
Today many American parents outsource their oral storytelling to screens. And in doing so, I wonder if we’re missing out on an easy — and effective — way of disciplining and changing behavior. Could small children be somehow “wired” to learn through stories?
“Well, I’d say kids learn well through narrative and explanations,” says psychologist Deena Weisberg at Villanova University, who studies how small children interpret fiction. “We learn best through things that are interesting to us. And stories, by their nature, can have lots of things in them that are much more interesting in a way that barestatements don’t.”
Stories with a dash of danger pull in kids like magnets, Weisberg says. And they turn a tension-ridden activity like disciplining into a playful interaction that’s — dare, I say it — fun.
“Don’t discount the playfulness of storytelling,” Weisberg says. “With stories, kids get to see stuff happen that doesn’t really happen in real life. Kids think that’s fun. Adults think it’s fun, too.”
Why don’t you hit me?
Back up in Iqaluit, Myna Ishulutak is reminiscing about her childhood out on the land. She and her family lived in a hunting camp with about 60 other people. When she was a teenager, her family settled in a town.
“I miss living on the land so much,” she says as we eat a dinner of baked Arctic char. “We lived in a sod house. And when we woke up in the morning, everything would be frozen until we lit the oil lamp.”
I ask her if she’s familiar with the work of Jean Briggs. Her answer leaves me speechless.
Ishulutak reaches into her purse and brings out Briggs’ second book, Inuit Morality Play, which details the life of a 3-year-old girl dubbed Chubby Maata.
“This book is about me and my family,” Ishulutak says. “I am Chubby Maata.”
In the early 1970s, when Ishulutak was about 3 years old, her family welcomed Briggs into their home for six months and allowed her to study the intimate details of their child’s day-to-day life.
What Briggs documented is a central component to raising cool-headed kids.
When a child in the camp acted in anger — hit someone or had a tantrum — there was no punishment. Instead, the parents waited for the child to calm down and then, in a peaceful moment, did something that Shakespeare would understand all too well: They put on a drama. (As the Bard once wrote, “the play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”)
“The idea is to give the child experiences that will lead the child to develop rational thinking,” Briggs told the CBC in 2011.
In a nutshell, the parent would act out what happened when the child misbehaved, including the real-life consequences of that behavior.
The parent always had a playful, fun tone. And typically the performance starts with a question, tempting the child to misbehave.
For example, if the child is hitting others, the mom may start a drama by asking: “Why don’t you hit me?”
Then the child has to think: “What should I do?” If the child takes the bait and hits the mom, she doesn’t scold or yell but instead acts out the consequences. “Ow, that hurts!” she might exclaim.
The mom continues to emphasize the consequences by asking a follow-up question. For example: “Don’t you like me?” or “Are you a baby?” She is getting across the idea that hitting hurts people’s feelings, and “big girls” wouldn’t hit. But, again, all questions are asked with a hint of playfulness.
The parent repeats the drama from time to time until the child stops hitting the mom during the dramas and the misbehavior ends.
Ishulutak says these dramas teach children not to be provoked easily. “They teach you to be strong emotionally,” she says, “to not take everything so seriously or to be scared of teasing.”
Psychologist Peggy Miller, at the University of Illinois, agrees: “When you’re little, you learn that people will provoke you, and these dramas teach you to think and maintain some equilibrium.”
In other words, the dramas offer kids a chance to practice controlling their anger, Miller says, during times when they’re not actually angry.
This practice is likely critical for children learning to control their anger. Because here’s the thing about anger: Once someone is already angry, it is not easy for that person to squelch it — even for adults.
“When you try to control or change your emotions in the moment, that’s a really hard thing to do,” says Lisa Feldman Barrett, a psychologist at Northeastern University who studies how emotions work.
But if you practice having a different response or a different emotion at times when you’re not angry, you’ll have a better chance of managing your anger in those hot-button moments, Feldman Barrett says.
“That practice is essentially helping to rewire your brain to be able to make a different emotion [besides anger] much more easily,” she says.
This emotional practice may be even more important for children, says psychologist Markham, because kids’ brains are still developing the circuitry needed for self-control.
“Children have all kinds of big emotions,” she says. “They don’t have much prefrontal cortex yet. So what we do in responding to our child’s emotions shapes their brain.”
Markham recommends an approach close to that used by Inuit parents. When the kid misbehaves, she suggests, wait until everyone is calm. Then in a peaceful moment, go over what happened with the child. You can simply tell them the story about what occurred or use two stuffed animals to act it out.
Just be sure you do two things when you replay the misbehavior, she says. First, keep the child involved by asking many questions. For example, if the child has a hitting problem, you might stop midway through the puppet show and ask,”Bobby, wants to hit right now. Should he?”
Second, be sure to keep it fun. Many parents overlook play as a tool for discipline, Markham says. But fantasy play offers oodles of opportunities to teach children proper behavior.
“Play is their work,” Markham says. “That’s how they learn about the world and about their experiences.”
Which seems to be something the Inuit have known for hundreds, perhaps even, thousands of years.
Inuit parents value the playful side of kids even when disciplining them. Above: Maata Jaw and daughter. Johan Hallberg-Campbell for NPR
This story is part of a series from NPR’s Science desk called The Other Side of Anger. There’s no question we are in angry times. It’s in our politics, our schools and homes. Anger can be a destructive emotion, but it can also be a positive force.
É o que aponta levantamento feito entre 17 e 30 de agosto pela Rede de Pesquisa Solidária, que monitora as respostas à Covid pelo país. É a quarta rodada de uma enquete feita com 64 lideranças comunitárias nas regiões metropolitanas de Manaus, Recife, Belo Horizonte, Rio, São Paulo, Distrito Federal, Campinas (SP), Salvador, Joinville (SC) e Maringá (PR).
“Quando perguntamos sobre perspectiva para o futuro, houve essa percepção de que a pandemia gerou engajamento, foi uma surpresa para nós. Por um lado, é efeito de uma constatação negativa: as pessoas se sentiram abandonadas e aprenderam que tiveram que se reestruturar para reagir à pandemia”, diz Graziela Castello, diretora-administrativa e pesquisadora do Cebrap.
“Moradores que não tinham história de associativismo, relação com sindicato, com partido, começaram a se organizar. Dos entrevistados, 16%, acham que gerou algum tipo de consciência política na população e que a gestão da pandemia provocou a necessidade de avaliar o governo, pensar nas eleições. Dentro do cenário de abandono completo, talvez tenha impacto positivo de maior prática de cidadania política”, continua.
Uma outra questão despontou no último questionário feito: a preocupação com a educação. Um em cada cinco entrevistados citou a volta às aulas como um dos problemas mais críticos atualmente.
E aí os líderes se dividem: parte deles se preocupa que o retorno das crianças às escolas possa aumentar a contaminação dentro das comunidades; outra parte se preocupa com o pouco acesso das crianças e adolescentes a ferramentas de ensino remoto, prejudicando a aprendizagem.
“Os familiares são terrivelmente contra o retorno às aulas, mesmo porque se trata de um governo e de um prefeito que não investiu na saúde, não fez um investimento na preparação da volta às aulas, nas salas de aula. Segundo, o governo e o prefeito lá vão colocar um frasco de álcool em gel e um ventilador para fazer a ventilação, e [afirmam que] isso é o suficiente para espantar o vírus. A gente sabe que precisa de um investimento muito maior do que isso”, diz um entrevistado do Tucuruvi, zona norte de São Paulo.
“As famílias não têm internet, telefone, computador em casa. E as crianças estão sem estudar, sem escola. E devido a essa situação elas ficam em casa sem fazer nada. Tem mães analfabetas que não sabem explicar e ajudar nas atividades, ficou muito difícil nas comunidades”, diz outro na Brasilândia, também em São Paulo.
Para Castello, “a diversidade de opiniões mostra o drama que é gerenciar essa situação”, diz. “De um lado, tem o medo da volta às aulas, do impacto nos parentes mais velhos, a preocupação de que as escolas não estão preparadas para voltar. Do outro lado, as lideranças apontam deficiências cognitivas, depressão nas crianças, todo esse processo que o distanciamento tem gerado.”
“As duas coisas são muito perversas. Os pais lidam com o medo da volta e com a impossibilidade da manutenção em casa”, diz a pesquisadora.
A Rede de Pesquisa Solidária reúne dezenas de pesquisadores de instituições públicas e privadas, como a USP, o Cebrap (Centro Brasileiro de Análise e Planejamento) e a Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV). Desde abril, eles têm produzido boletins semanais, que estão disponíveis no site da iniciativa.
“De igual modo, em virtude dos descobrimentos, movimentaram-se povos para outros continentes (sobretudo europeus e escravos africanos).”
É dessa forma – “como se os negros tivessem optado por emigrar em vez de terem sido levados à força” – que o colonialismo ainda é ensinado em Portugal.
Quem critica é a portuguesa Marta Araújo, pesquisadora principal do Centro de Estudos Sociais (CES) da Universidade de Coimbra.
De setembro de 2008 a fevereiro de 2012, ela coordenou uma minuciosa pesquisa ao fim da qual concluiu que os livros didáticos do país “escondem o racismo no colonialismo português e naturalizam a escravatura”.
Além disso, segundo Araújo, “persiste até hoje a visão romântica de que cumprimos uma missão civilizatória, ou seja, de que fomos bons colonizadores, mais benevolentes do que outros povos europeus”.
“A escravatura não ocupa mais de duas ou três páginas nesses livros, sendo tratada de forma vaga e superficial. Também propagam ideias tortuosas. Por exemplo, quando falam sobre as consequências da escravatura, o único país a ganhar maior destaque é o Brasil e mesmo assim para falar sobre a miscigenação”, explica.
“Por trás disso, está o propósito de destacar a suposta multirracialidade da nossa maior colônia que, neste sentido, seria um exemplo do sucesso das políticas de miscigenação. Na prática, porém, sabemos que isso não ocorreu da forma como é tratada”, questiona.
Araújo diz que “nada mudou” desde 2012 e argumenta que a falta de compreensão sobre o assunto traz prejuízos.
“Essa narrativa gera uma série de consequências, desde a menor coleta de dados sobre a discriminação étnico-racial até a própria não admissão de que temos um problema de racismo”, afirma.
Para realizar a pesquisa, Araújo contou com a ajuda de outros pesquisadores. O foco principal foi a análise dos cinco livros didáticos de História mais vendidos no país para alunos do chamado 3º Ciclo do Ensino Básico (12 a 14 anos), que compreende do 7º ao 9º ano.
Além disso, a equipe também examinou políticas públicas, entrevistou historiadores e educadores, assistiu a aulas e conduziu workshops com estudantes.
Em um deles, as pesquisadoras presenciaram uma cena que chamou a atenção, lembra Araújo.
Na ocasião, os alunos ficaram surpresos ao saber de revoltas das próprias populações escravizadas. E também sobre o verdadeiro significado dos quilombos ─ destino dos escravos que fugiam, normalmente locais escondidos e fortificados no meio das matas.
“Em outros países, há uma abertura muito maior para discutir como essas populações lutavam contra a opressão. Mas, no caso português, os alunos nem sequer poderiam imaginar que eles se libertavam sozinhos e continuavam a acreditar que todos eram vítimas passivas da situação. É uma ideia muito resignada”, diz.
Araújo destaca que nos livros analisados “não há nenhuma alusão à Revolução do Haiti (conflito sangrento que culminou na abolição da escravidão e na independência do país, que passou a ser a primeira república governada por pessoas de ascendência africana)”.
Já os quilombos são representados, acrescenta a pesquisadora, como “locais onde os negros dançavam em um dia de festa”.
“Como resultado, essas versões acabam sendo consensualizadas e não levantam as polêmicas necessárias para problematizarmos o ensino da História da África.”
Araújo diz que, diferentemente de outros países, os livros didáticos portugueses continuam a apregoar uma visão “romântica” sobre o colonialismo português.
“Perdura a narrativa de que nosso colonialismo foi um colonialismo amigável, do qual resultaram sociedades multiculturais e multirraciais – e o Brasil seria um exemplo”, diz.
Ironicamente, contudo, outras potências colonizadoras daquele tempo não são retratadas de igual forma, observa ela.
“Quando falamos da descoberta das Américas, os espanhóis são descritos como extremamente violentos sempre em contraste com a suposta benevolência do colonialismo português. Já os impérios francês, britânico e belga são tachados de racistas”, assinala.
“Por outro lado, nunca se fala da questão racial em relação ao colonialismo português. Há despolitização crescente. Os livros didáticos holandeses, por exemplo, atribuem a escravatura aos portugueses”, acrescenta.
Segundo ela, essa ideia da “benevolência do colonizador português” acabou encontrando eco no luso-tropicalismo, tese desenvolvida pelo cientista social brasileiro Gilberto Freire sobre a relação de Portugal com os trópicos.
Em linhas gerais, Freire defendia que a capacidade do português de se relacionar com os trópicos ─ não por interesse político ou econômico, mas por suposta empatia inata ─ resultaria de sua própria origem ética híbrida, da sua bicontinentalidade e do longo contato com mouros e judeus na Península Ibérica.
Apesar de rejeitado pelo Estado Novo de Getúlio Vargas (1930-1945), por causa da importância que conferia à miscigenação e à interpenetração de culturas, o luso-tropicalismo ganhou força como peça de propaganda durante a ditadura do português António de Oliveira Salazar (1932-1968). Uma versão simplificada e nacionalista da tese acabou guiando a política externa do regime.
“Ocorre que a questão racial nunca foi debatida em Portugal”, ressalta Araújo. Direito de imagem Marta Araújo Image caption Livro didático português diz que escravos africanos “movimentaram-se para outros continentes”
A pesquisadora alega que enviou os resultados da pesquisa ao Ministério da Educação português, mas nunca obteve resposta.
“Nossa percepção é que os responsáveis acreditam que tudo está bem assim e que medidas paliativas, como festivais culturais sazonais, podem substituir a problematização de um assunto tão importante”, critica.
Nesse sentido, Araújo elogia a iniciativa brasileira de 2003 que tornou obrigatório o ensino da história e cultura afro-brasileira e indígena em todas as escolas, públicas e particulares, do ensino fundamental até o ensino médio.
“Precisamos combater o racismo, mas isso não será possível se não mudarmos a forma como ensinamos nossa História”, conclui.
Procurado pela BBC Brasil, o Ministério da Educação português não havia respondido até a publicação desta reportagem.
Após decretarem o afrouxamento do isolamento social para conter a transmissão do novo coronavírus, países que estão voltando às aulas adotam medidas de prevenção para evitar uma nova onda de contaminação.
O G1 analisou a experiência de países como China, Coreia do Sul, Dinamarca, Finlândia, França, Portugal e Israel para saber quais cuidados estão sendo tomados na volta às aulas. No Brasil, as aulas estão suspensas em todos os estados e as escolas seguem fechadas.
Entre as medidas, estão:
desinfecção de escolas
tendas de desinfecção dos alunos na entrada
controle de temperatura
uso de máscaras
lavagem de mãos e instalação de torneiras
grupos menores de alunos
horários diferentes de entrada e saída
arejar a sala
afastar professores do grupo de risco
A reabertura das escolas é um marco no fim do isolamento porque permite que os pais possam voltar ao mercado de trabalho. Apesar dos esforços, ao menos dois dos países analisados voltaram a registrar casos de transmissão de coronavírus: Coreia do Sul e França.
Na Coreia do Sul, mais de 200 escolas foram fechadas nesta sexta-feira (29) dias após reabrirem, devido ao surgimento de novos casos de contaminação. Com isso, Seul adotou novas medidas para evitar a transmissão de casos, como limitar o número de alunos por sala, enquanto os demais ficam em casa, aprendendo por atividades remotas.
As regras de confinamento impostas para conter o avanço da disseminação do novo coronavírus deixaram mais de 1,5 bilhão de crianças e adolescentes fora da escola em 188 países, segundo balanço da Unesco divulgado em abril.
Desinfecção de escolas
Medidas extras de limpeza são uma recomendação comum. Em diversas partes do mundo, a desinfecção das escolas ocorre antes dos alunos chegarem e durante a permanência deles.
Na França, as orientações do Ministério da Educação contêm inclusive quais produtos a serem utilizados para desinfecção das escolas e a frequência da higienização: o chão deve ser limpo uma vez por dia enquanto maçanetas, sanitários e interruptores devem ser higienizados várias vezes.
Tenda de desinfecção dos alunos
Na China, escolas instalaram tendas de desinfecção por onde os estudantes precisam passar antes de entrarem na escola.
Controle de temperatura
O controle da temperatura para detectar se o aluno está com febre, um dos mais comuns sintomas da Covid-19, é uma preocupação em vários países.
Em Pequim,pulseiras inteligentes, que fazem essa medição em tempo real, estão sendo testadas. Os pais monitoram a situação por meio de um aplicativo. Caso a temperatura passe de 37ºC, um alerta é enviado para os professores, que são orientados a alertar a polícia.
Uso de máscara
O uso de máscaras em geral também é recomendado, mas os critérios variam de país para país.
Na China, as crianças utilizam máscaras o tempo todo, inclusive dentro da sala de aula.
Em Israel, as crianças da 4ª série em diante tem que usar essa proteção. Na França, as crianças menores também estão dispensadas. No entanto, a escola deve ter máscaras à disposição dos alunos caso eles apresentem sintomas durante as aulas e estejam aguardando para serem retirados.
Uma exceção é a Dinamarca, país onde não existe a recomendação para utilização de máscaras em ambientes públicos.
Lavagem de mãos e instalação de torneiras
O incentivo à higiene e lavagem de mãos está sendo constante nas escolas que voltam às aulas.
Na Dinamarca, as escolas chegaram a instalar torneiras fora dos edifícios para que as crianças lavem as mãos quando chegam à escola.
Alguns países adotaram a medida de dividir os estudantes em grupos menores para evitar contatos mais próximos entre eles, como na Finlândia.
Na Dinamarca, as turmas, que têm entre 20 e 28 alunos, foram divididas para que os alunos possam interagir apenas dentro desse espectro menor.
Em Seul, na Coreia do Sul, os jardins de infância e escolas do ensino básico, fundamental e médio poderão receber apenas um aluno a cada três e os demais terão que seguir com o ensino a distância.
Em geral, as salas de aula foram reorganizadas de maneira que as mesas dos alunos fiquem a pelo menos um metro de distância entre elas. A recomendação é feita pelo governos da França, Dinamarca. Em Israel, essa distância é de dois metros.
Na Dinamarca, além da distância de um metro entre as mesas dos alunos, o professor deve ficar a dois metros do estudante que senta mais próximo dele.
Alguns países adotam inclusive paredes acrílicas para evitar que gotículas da fala sejam trocadas entre os estudantes e entre estudantes e professores, como é o caso da Coreia do Sul.
Para estudantes menores, mantê-los afastados é um desafio. Uma solução lúdica, feita com asas de papelão, foi adotada na província de Shanxi, na China, para lembrá-los a distância que precisam ficar uns dos outros.
A mesma medida foi adotada pelos governo da Finlândia e Israel, que determinaram o estabelecimento de horários diferentes para intervalos, entrada e saída para evitar aglomeração.
Na Dinamarca, além dos horários variados, novos portões estão sendo utilizados para que a entrada e saída dos grupos não coincidam. Os pais também são orientados a se despedir dos filhos fora da escola e devem pedir permissão, caso necessitem entrar no estabelecimento.
Arejar a sala
Na França, as escolas são orientadas a manter as janelas abertas antes das aulas, durante o intervalo e depois da partida dos alunos.
Afastamento de professores do grupo de risco
Em Israel, professoras com mais de 65 anos não retomaram as atividades. A medida é para evitar que eles fiquem expostos à uma possível nova onda de circulação do coronavírus.
Hoje, pela manhã, em conversa por WhatsApp com parentes quarentenados, ao falarmos sobre o pronunciamento do Bolsonaro da noite de ontem, um adolescente da família postou um emoticon de careta e disparou: “qual o problema desse cara?” Mais tarde, encontrei nas redes sociais vídeo postado por um grande amigo argentino, Hugo Partucci, em que ele toca, ao violão, canção composta por seu grupo artístico há alguns anos, e que fala de um adulto que, vivendo a perseguição política da ditadura argentina, coloca uma criança para dormir e deseja a ela que tenha bons sonhos. De repente, numa dessas associações de ideias que aparecem de forma espontânea na mente, ocorreu-me que, se nós, adultos, não estragarmos as coisas, o COVID-19 pode melhorar tremendamente a vida política do Brasil.
A ideia, algo contra intuitiva, reconheço, é a seguinte: as pessoas da minha geração (tenho 47), com margem de variação de menos ou mais quinze anos, viram as coisas darem mais ou menos certo da forma bastante errada na política brasileira, e com isso desenvolveram uma atitude cínica com relação ao processo político, de maneira geral. Este cinismo se manifesta, de forma explícita ou nas profundezas do subconsciente, no pensamento algo recorrente que diz que eleições não servem pra nada, que são um imenso teatro para manter as mesmas elites de sempre no poder. Com o Bolsonaro no Planalto, se a juventude entender o que está acontecendo sem herdar nossos vícios de pensamento e nossas emoções apodrecidas, as coisas podem mudar. Que criança ou jovem que tenha memória, no futuro, do que está acontecendo agora vai pensar que as eleições não são importantes? Ocorre, no entanto, que podemos estragar tudo se não tivermos cuidado.
Quando digo que as coisas deram certo da forma errada, refiro-me especificamente ao fato de que no Brasil, desde o fim da ditadura, as coisas caminham mas nunca segundo as aspirações da população. O país se redemocratizou, mas o movimentos Diretas Já não teve sucesso; posteriormente, o processo democrático se estruturou de forma lenta e insegura, com Sarney, Collor, Itamar e FHC, sem que as elites que defendem políticas excludentes tivessem arredado pé do governo por um segundo sequer. O consolo vinha sempre na forma do mantra “O Brasil é uma democracia jovem”. Com o PT no governo, as ânsias e desejos do passado se reascenderam; houve um período de êxtase na juventude progressista, enquanto o Lula distribuía o excedente do dinheiro do pré-sal, associava-se aos banqueiros e não fazia as reformas necessárias nem uma distribuição de renda estrutural e efetiva. Quando a coisa toda desmoronou, veio junto o que restava de esperança naquela geração de jovens no processo político. Sobrou desesperança e amargura, mesmo que em um país mais rico, mais educado e menos desigual do que há 30 anos.
Tenho amigos e parentes que, antilulisticamente, ajudaram a colocar o Bolsonaro no poder. A grande maioria parou de dizer “ah, mais no tempo do PT…” quando o governo Bolsonaro começou a patinar no seu tratamento da epidemia. Depois do pronunciamento de ontem, praticamente todos eles estão gritando “impeachment” nas redes sociais. E o que está fazendo a maioria dos que sempre foram mais politicamente alinhados comigo? Está postando mensagens de ódio, do tipo “deixa eu avisar que eu lembro de cada pessoa da minha lista de contatos que votou no Bolsonaro”, ou inserindo a expressão “eu avisei” nos seus nomes, em seus perfis de redes sociais. Até ontem, isso não me espantava. Hoje de manhã ocorreu-me que podemos estrar estragando a única oportunidade que nos resta de ver o processo político melhorar.
Em que contexto político um grupo vê o rival mudar para o seu lado, e ao invés de congratular-se, reage com ódio? Nossa geração está destruindo o pouco que sobrou da política – com ajuda dos algoritmos das redes sociais, sem dúvida. Em algum momento paramos de fazer política, aquela estruturada ao redor da ideia de que os outros têm direito de pensar diferente e a melhor forma de lidar com isso é exatamente que eles venham dizer isso na nossa cara, e escutem o que temos a dizer a respeito. O processo político virou a válvula de escape de nossas frustrações e da nossa raiva. No processo eleitoral, parecia que os antipestistas eram os que estavam votando com o sistema digestivo. Depois das eleições, aparentemente todo o país passou a viver a política de forma gástrica, e nada mais. A reação mais natural, por ser espontânea e porque já a naturalizamos, é insultar o Bolsonaro quando temos que mencionar o seu nome.
Ocorre, no entanto, que isso pode ter consequências terríveis a longo prazo. Mudemos um pouco a perspectiva da cena: saia dos teus olhos e entre nos da criança que te observa, enquanto você, aos brados, diz que o presidente é um jumento, um palhaço, um imbecil, um retardado, uma pilha de esterco, um psicopata, um monstro, um assassino, um genocida. O que você acha que está acontecendo no pensamento desta criança?
Se há lições a serem aprendidas com o COVID-19, acredito que uma das mais importantes não seja para a nossa geração, mas para a das crianças e jovens. Se eles entenderem que o que causou isso, de forma mais imediata, foi o voto, e que é pelo voto que isso pode ser evitado, jamais terão atitude cínica como a nossa. O processo democrático no futuro será mais maduro e verdadeiro.
Só não vai acontecer se contaminarmos a percepção que os jovens têm da política, com tanto refluxo verbal, de modo que eles não sejam capazes de perceber que o momento atual mostra, com clareza que minha geração nunca teve, o valor que o voto tem. É preciso que admitamos, então, nossas limitações, para que possamos ajudar as crianças e jovens a construírem realidade melhor do que a nossa.
Para tanto, é preciso tratar dos sentimentos que temos dentro de nós, sobre o governo, sobre o papel que o estado-nação tem em nossas vidas, sobre a forma como nos fizemos dependentes e vulneráveis a coisas que não controlamos; precisamos tentar aprender com quem vive de forma mais autônoma, livre e em paz, e precisamos trabalhar para que a relação entre o estado e as pessoas seja mais saudável no futuro. É possível que não sejamos mais capazes de consertar isso; o que estou argumentando aqui é que talvez nossos filhos o sejam, e não devemos atrapalhá-los com nossas limitações. O elemento mais inconveniente do fato de que nossa reação às ações do Bolsonaro é gastrointestinal é não conseguirmos fazer efetivamente nada que mude as coisas com isso. Há, inclusive, a possibilidade de que isso seja estratégia bolsonarista. Quem consegue pensar de forma politicamente estratégica, hoje, não está dando chilique.
Isso tudo passa, a meu ver, por não alienar os jovens do que está acontecendo, no sentido de “protegê-los”. Quando fazemos isso, estamos apenas materializando o pensamento de que eles não poderão ser melhores do que somos e fomos. Quem pensa assim não está colocando a devida atenção em quem são as crianças e jovens de hoje. Ao invés de pautar sua compreensão da realidade pelo programa do Datena ou do Ratinho, olhe ao seu redor, escute as conversas das crianças e jovens, e compare com o que éramos a três ou quatro décadas. Tenho a impressão forte de que muita gente nesta geração nova é mais capaz de empatia, de colaboração, de amor e de perdão do que éramos (e somos).
É preciso encontrar formas de fazer os jovens entenderem o que está acontecendo sem repetir neles nossas limitações emocionais, nossa incapacidade de manter a serenidade, nossos traumas. Por isso, antes de falar aos jovens sobre o que deveria estar acontecendo e não está, tomemos o tempo de tentar analisar o que se passa com nossas emoções, com nossa necessidade de descarregar as emoções negativas através da política (o que aniquila a capacidade da política ser tudo o que poderia). E trata-se mais de postura afetiva do que de ação: podemos e devemos bater panela, assinar petições pedindo o impeachment, participar de manifestações de rua quando o perigo do COVID-19 estiver controlado, e estarmos preparados para a desobediência civil. Mas agindo com a cabeça, e não com os intestinos. Crianças e jovens são imensamente capazes de perceber o que nos move, e isso pode deixar neles marca profunda, positiva ou negativa.
Se fizermos isso tudo – o que vai tomar algum tempo e não vai ser fácil -, podemos pelo menos contribuir para a formação de uma nova geração que será imensamente mais capaz de viver em comunidade e resolver seus problemas de forma pacífica e colaborativa. O ponto central do meu pensamento, entenda-se bem, não é transferir aos jovens a responsabilidade de resolver algo que não fomos capazes. É apenas aproveitar a intervenção drástica e em escala planetária do COVID-19 para que tratemos nossas feridas politico-emocionais, e sejamos capazes de deixar que a crise seja uma lição de crescimento civilizacional para crianças e jovens. Se isso vai ser amargo ou sereno para eles, depende muito de como nossas emoções embotadas afetarão a mensagem.
WELLSTON, Ohio — To Gwen Beatty, a junior at the high school in this proud, struggling, Trump-supporting town, the new science teacher’s lessons on climate change seemed explicitly designed to provoke her.
So she provoked him back.
When the teacher, James Sutter, ascribed the recent warming of the Earth to heat-trapping gases released by burning fossil fuels like the coal her father had once mined, she asserted that it could be a result of other, natural causes.
When he described the flooding, droughts and fierce storms that scientists predict within the century if such carbon emissions are not sharply reduced, she challenged him to prove it. “Scientists are wrong all the time,” she said with a shrug, echoing those celebrating President Trump’s announcement last week that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
Mr. Sutter during his Advanced Placement environmental science class. He was hired from a program that recruits science professionals into teaching.Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times
For his part, Mr. Sutter occasionally fell short of his goal of providing Gwen — the most vocal of a raft of student climate skeptics — with calm, evidence-based responses. “Why would I lie to you?” he demanded one morning. “It’s not like I’m making a lot of money here.”
She was, he knew, a straight-A student. She would have had no trouble comprehending the evidence, embedded in ancient tree rings, ice, leaves and shells, as well as sophisticated computer models, that atmospheric carbon dioxide is the chief culprit when it comes to warming the world. Or the graph he showed of how sharply it has spiked since the Industrial Revolution, when humans began pumping vast quantities of it into the air.
Thinking it a useful soothing device, Mr. Sutter assented to Gwen’s request that she be allowed to sand the bark off the sections of wood he used to illustrate tree rings during class. When she did so with an energy that, classmates said, increased during discussion points with which she disagreed, he let it go.
When she insisted that teachers “are supposed to be open to opinions,” however, Mr. Sutter held his ground.
“It’s not about opinions,” he told her. “It’s about the evidence.”
“It’s like you can’t disagree with a scientist or you’re ‘denying science,”’ she sniffed to her friends.
Gwen, 17, could not put her finger on why she found Mr. Sutter, whose biology class she had enjoyed, suddenly so insufferable. Mr. Sutter, sensing that his facts and figures were not helping, was at a loss. And the day she grew so agitated by a documentary he was showing that she bolted out of the school left them both shaken.
“I have a runner,” Mr. Sutter called down to the office, switching off the video.
“It was just so biased toward saying climate change is real,” she said later, trying to explain her flight. “And that all these people that I pretty much am like are wrong and stupid.”
Classroom Culture Wars
As more of the nation’s teachers seek to integrate climate science into the curriculum, many of them are reckoning with students for whom suspicion of the subject is deeply rooted.
In rural Wellston, a former coal and manufacturing town seeking its next act, rejecting the key findings of climate science can seem like a matter of loyalty to a way of life already under siege. Originally tied, perhaps, to economic self-interest, climate skepticism has itself become a proxy for conservative ideals of hard work, small government and what people here call “self-sustainability.”
Jacynda Patton, right, during Mr. Sutter’s class. “I thought it would be an easy A,” she said. “It wasn’t.”Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times
The Alliance for Climate Education, which runs assemblies based on the consensus science for high schools across the country, received new funding from a donor who sees teenagers as the best means of reaching and influencing their parents.
Idaho, however, this year joined several other states that have declined to adopt new science standards that emphasize the role human activities play in climate change.
At Wellston, where most students live below the poverty line and the needle-strewn bike path that abuts the marching band’s practice field is known as “heroin highway,” climate change is not regarded as the most pressing issue. And since most Wellston graduates typically do not go on to obtain a four-year college degree, this may be the only chance many of them have to study the impact of global warming.
But Mr. Sutter’s classroom shows how curriculum can sometimes influence culture on a subject that stands to have a more profound impact on today’s high schoolers than their parents.
“I thought it would be an easy A,” said Jacynda, 16, an outspoken Trump supporter. “It wasn’t.”
God’s Gift to Wellston?
Mr. Sutter, who grew up three hours north of Wellston in the largely Democratic city of Akron, applied for the job at Wellston High straight from a program to recruit science professionals into teaching, a kind of science-focused Teach for America.
He already had a graduate-level certificate in environmental science from the University of Akron and a private sector job assessing environmental risk for corporations. But a series of personal crises that included his sister’s suicide, he said, had compelled him to look for a way to channel his knowledge to more meaningful use.
The fellowship gave him a degree in science education in exchange for a three-year commitment to teach in a high-needs Ohio school district. Megan Sowers, the principal, had been looking for someone qualified to teach an Advanced Placement course, which could help improve her financially challenged school’s poor performance ranking. She hired him on the spot.
Mr. Sutter walking with his students on a nature trail near the high school, where he pointed out evidence of climate change.Credit: Maddie McGarvey for The New York Times
But at a school where most teachers were raised in the same southeastern corner of Appalachian Ohio as their students, Mr. Sutter’s credentials themselves could raise hackles.
“He says, ‘I left a higher-paying job to come teach in an area like this,’” Jacynda recalled. “We’re like, ‘What is that supposed to mean?”’
“He acts,” Gwen said with her patented eye roll, “like he’s God’s gift to Wellston.”
In truth, he was largely winging it.
Some 20 states, including a handful of red ones, have recently begun requiring students to learn that human activity is a major cause of climate change, but few, if any, have provided a road map for how to teach it, and most science teachers, according to one recent survey, spend at most two hours on the subject.
Chagrined to learn that none of his students could recall a school visit by a scientist, Mr. Sutter hosted several graduate students from nearby Ohio University.
On a field trip to a biology laboratory there, many of his students took their first ride on an escalator. To illustrate why some scientists in the 1970s believed the world was cooling rather than warming (“So why should we believe them now?” students sometimes asked), he brought in a 1968 push-button phone and a 1980s Nintendo game cartridge.
“Our data and our ability to process it is just so much better now,” he said.
In the A.P. class, Mr. Sutter took an informal poll midway through: In all, 14 of 17 students said their parents thought he was, at best, wasting their time. “My stepdad says they’re brainwashing me,” one said.
Jacynda’s father, for one, did not raise an eyebrow when his daughter stopped attending Mr. Sutter’s class for a period in the early winter. A former coal miner who had endured two years of unemployment before taking a construction job, he declined a request to talk about it.
“I think it’s that it’s taken a lot from him,” Jacynda said. “He sees it as the environmental people have taken his job.”
And having listened to Mr. Sutter reiterate the overwhelming agreement among scientists regarding humanity’s role in global warming in answer to another classmate’s questions — “What if we’re not the cause of it? What if this is something that’s natural?” — Jacynda texted the classmate one night using an expletive to refer to Mr. Sutter’s teaching approach.
But even the staunchest climate-change skeptics could not ignore the dearth of snow days last winter, the cap to a year that turned out to be the warmest Earth has experienced since 1880, according to NASA. The high mark eclipsed the record set just the year before, which had eclipsed the year before that.
In woods behind the school, where Mr. Sutter had his students scout out a nature trail, he showed them the preponderance of emerald ash borers, an invasive insect that, because of the warm weather, had not experienced the usual die-off that winter. There was flooding, too: Once, more than 5.5 inches of rain fell in 48 hours.
The field trip to a local stream where the water runs neon orange also made an impression. Mr. Sutter had the class collect water samples: The pH levels were as acidic as “the white vinegar you buy at a grocery store,” he told them. And the drainage, they could see, was from the mine.
It was the realization that she had failed to grasp the damage done to her immediate environment, Jacynda said, that made her begin to pay more attention. She did some reading. She also began thinking that she might enjoy a job working for the Environmental Protection Agency — until she learned that, under Mr. Trump, the agency would undergo huge layoffs.
“O.K., I’m not going to lie. I did a 180,” she said that afternoon in the library with Gwen, casting a guilty look at her friend. “This is happening, and we have to fix it.”
After fleeing Mr. Sutter’s classroom that day, Gwen never returned, a pragmatic decision about which he has regrets. “That’s one student I feel I failed a little bit,” he said.
As an alternative, Gwen took an online class for environmental science credit, which she does not recall ever mentioning climate change. She and Jacynda had other things to talk about, like planning a bonfire after prom.
As they tried on dresses last month, Jacynda mentioned that others in their circle, including the boys they had invited to prom, believed the world was dangerously warming, and that humans were to blame. By the last days of school, most of Mr. Sutter’s doubters, in fact, had come to that conclusion.
“I know,” Gwen said, pausing for a moment. “Now help me zip this up.”
Researchers have coined this trend the ‘anti-enlightenment movement‘, and there’s been a lot of frustration and finger-pointing over who or what’s to blame. But a team of psychologists has identified some of the key factors that can cause people to reject science – and it has nothing to do with how educated or intelligent they are.
In fact, the researchers found that people who reject scientific consensus on topics such as climate change, vaccine safety, and evolution are generally just as interested in science and as well-educated as the rest of us.
The issue is that when it comes to facts, people think more like lawyers than scientists, which means they ‘cherry pick’ the facts and studies that back up what they already believe to be true.
So if someone doesn’t think humans are causing climate change, they will ignore the hundreds of studies that support that conclusion, but latch onto the one study they can find that casts doubt on this view. This is also known as cognitive bias.
“We find that people will take a flight from facts to protect all kinds of belief including their religious belief, their political beliefs, and even simple personal beliefs such as whether they are good at choosing a web browser,” said one of the researchers, Troy Campbell from the University of Oregon.
“People treat facts as relevant more when the facts tend to support their opinions. When the facts are against their opinions, they don’t necessarily deny the facts, but they say the facts are less relevant.”
This conclusion was based on a series of new interviews, as well as a meta-analysis of the research that’s been published on the topic, and was presented in a symposium called over the weekend as part of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual convention in San Antonio.
The goal was to figure out what’s going wrong with science communication in 2017, and what we can do to fix it.
The research has yet to be published, so isn’t conclusive, but the results suggest that simply focussing on the evidence and data isn’t enough to change someone’s mind about a particular topic, seeing as they’ll most likely have their own ‘facts’ to fire back at you.
Instead, the researchers recommend looking into the ‘roots’ of people’s unwillingness to accept scientific consensus, and try to find common ground to introduce new ideas.
So where is this denial of science coming from? A big part of the problem, the researchers found, is that people associate scientific conclusions with political or social affiliations.
New research conducted by Kahan showed that people have actually always cherry picked facts when it comes to science – that’s nothing new. But it hasn’t been such a big problem in the past, because scientific conclusions were usually agreed on by political and cultural leaders, and promoted as being in the public’s best interests.
“Rather than taking on people’s surface attitudes directly, tailor the message so that it aligns with their motivation,” said Hornsey. “So with climate skeptics, for example, you find out what they can agree on and then frame climate messages to align with these.”
The researchers are still gathering data for a peer-reviewed publication on their findings, but they presented their work to the scientific community for further dissemination and discussion in the meantime.
Hornsey told the LA Times that the stakes are too high to continue to ignore the ‘anti-enlightenment movement’.
“Anti-vaccination movements cost lives,” said Hornsey. “Climate change skepticism slows the global response to the greatest social, economic and ecological threat of our time.”
“We grew up in an era when it was just presumed that reason and evidence were the ways to understand important issues; not fear, vested interests, tradition or faith,” he added.
“But the rise of climate skepticism and the anti-vaccination movement made us realise that these enlightenment values are under attack.”
Adrian Genie, Burning Books 2014.Credit: Private Collection, Switzerland, via Galerie Judin, Berlin
This is the fifth in a series of dialogues with philosophers and critical theorists on violence. This conversation is with Henry A. Giroux, a professor in the department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. His latest book is “America at War With Itself” (City Lights).
Brad Evans: Throughout your work you have dealt with the dangers of ignorance and what you have called the violence of “organized forgetting.” Can you explain what you mean by this and why we need to be attentive to intellectual forms of violence?
Henry Giroux: Unfortunately, we live at a moment in which ignorance appears to be one of the defining features of American political and cultural life. Ignorance has become a form of weaponized refusal to acknowledge the violence of the past, and revels in a culture of media spectacles in which public concerns are translated into private obsessions, consumerism and fatuous entertainment. As James Baldwin rightly warned, “Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”
The warning signs from history are all too clear. Failure to learn from the past has disastrous political consequences. Such ignorance is not simply about the absence of information. It has its own political and pedagogical categories whose formative cultures threaten both critical agency and democracy itself.
What I have called the violence of organized forgetting signals how contemporary politics are those in which emotion triumphs over reason, and spectacle over truth, thereby erasing history by producing an endless flow of fragmented and disingenuous knowledge. At a time in which figures like Donald Trump are able to gain a platform by promoting values of “greatness” that serve to cleanse the memory of social and political progress achieved in the name of equality and basic human decency, history and thought itself are under attack.
Once ignorance is weaponized, violence seems to be a tragic inevitability. The mass shooting in Orlando is yet another example of an emerging global political and cultural climate of violence fed by hate and mass hysteria. Such violence legitimates not only a kind of inflammatory rhetoric and ideological fundamentalism that views violence as the only solution to addressing social issues, it also provokes further irrational acts of violence against others. Spurrned on by a complete disrespect for those who affirm different ways of living, this massacre points to a growing climate of hate and bigotry that is unapologetic in its political nihilism.
It would be easy to dismiss such an act as another senseless example of radical Islamic terrorism. That is too easy. Another set of questions needs to be asked. What are the deeper political, educational, and social conditions that allow a climate of hate, racism, and bigotry to become the dominant discourse of a society or worldview? What role do politicians with their racist and aggressive discourses play in the emerging landscapes violence? How can we use education, among other resources, to prevent politics from being transformed into a pathology? And how might we counter these tragic and terrifying conditions without retreating into security or military mindsets?
B.E.: You insist that education is crucial to any viable critique of oppression and violence. Why?
H.G.: I begin with the assumption that education is fundamental to democracy. No democratic society can survive without a formative culture, which includes but is not limited to schools capable of producing citizens who are critical, self-reflective, knowledgeable and willing to make moral judgments and act in a socially inclusive and responsible way. This is contrary to forms of education that reduce learning to an instrumental logic that too often and too easily can be perverted to violent ends.
So we need to remember that education can be both a basis for critical thought and a site for repression, which destroys thinking and leads to violence. Michel Foucault wrote that knowledge and truth not only “belong to the register of order and peace,” but can also be found on the “side of violence, disorder, and war.” What matters is the type of education a person is encouraged to pursue.
It’s not just schools that are a site of this struggle. “Education” in this regard not only includes public and higher education, but also a range of cultural apparatuses and media that produce, distribute and legitimate specific forms of knowledge, ideas, values and social relations. Just think of the ways in which politics and violence now inform each other and dominate media culture. First-person shooter video games top the video-game market while Hollywood films ratchet up representations of extreme violence and reinforce a culture of fear, aggression and militarization. Similar spectacles now drive powerful media conglomerates like 21st Century Fox, which includes both news and entertainment subsidiaries.
As public values wither along with the public spheres that produce them, repressive modes of education gain popularity and it becomes easier to incarcerate people than to educate them, to model schools after prisons, to reduce the obligations of citizenship to mere consumption and to remove any notion of social responsibility from society’s moral registers and ethical commitments.
B.E.: Considering Hannah Arendt’s warning that the forces of domination and exploitation require “thoughtlessness” on behalf of the oppressors, how is the capacity to think freely and in an informed way key to providing a counter to violent practices?
H.G.: Young people can learn to challenge violence, like those in the antiwar movement of the early ’70s or today in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Education does more than create critically minded, socially responsible citizens. It enables young people and others to challenge authority by connecting individual troubles to wider systemic concerns. This notion of education is especially important given that racialized violence, violence against women and the ongoing assaults on public goods cannot be solved on an individual basis.
Violence maims not only the body but also the mind and spirit. As Pierre Bourdieu has argued, it lies “on the side of belief and persuasion.” If we are to counter violence by offering young people ways to think differently about their world and the choices before them, they must be empowered to recognize themselves in any analysis of violence, and in doing so to acknowledge that it speaks to their lives meaningfully.
There is no genuine democracy without an informed public. While there are no guarantees that a critical education will prompt individuals to contest various forms of oppression and violence, it is clear that in the absence of a formative democratic culture, critical thinking will increasingly be trumped by anti-intellectualism, and walls and war will become the only means to resolve global challenges.
Creating such a culture of education, however, will not be easy in a society that links the purpose of education with being competitive in a global economy.
B.E.: Mindful of this, there is now a common policy in place throughout the education system to create “safe spaces” so students feel comfortable in their environments. This is often done in the name of protecting those who may have their voices denied. But given your claim about the need to confront injustice, does this represent an ethically responsible approach to difficult subject matters?
H.G.: There is a growing culture of conformity and quietism on university campuses, made evident in the current call for safe spaces and trigger warnings. This is not just conservative reactionism, but is often carried out by liberals who believe they are acting with the best intentions. Violence comes in many forms and can be particularly disturbing when confronted in an educational setting if handled dismissively or in ways that blame victims.
Yet troubling knowledge cannot be condemned on the basis of making students uncomfortable, especially if the desire for safety serves merely to limit access to difficult knowledge and the resources needed to analyze it. Critical education should be viewed as the art of the possible rather than a space organized around timidity, caution and fear.
Creating safe spaces runs counter to the notion that learning should be unsettling, that students should challenge common sense assumptions and be willing to confront disturbing realities despite discomfort. The political scientist Wendy Brown rightly argues that the “domain of free public speech is not one of emotional safety or reassurance,” and is “ not what the public sphere and political speech promise.” A university education should, Brown writes, “ call you to think, question, doubt” and “ incite you to question everything you assume, think you know or care about.”
This is particularly acute when dealing with pedagogies of violence and oppression. While there is a need to be ethically sensitive to the subject matter, our civic responsibility requires, at times, confronting truly intolerable conditions. The desire for emotionally safe spaces can be invoked to protect one’s sense of privilege — especially in the privileged sites of university education. This is further compounded by the frequent attempts by students to deny some speakers a platform because their views are controversial. While the intentions may be understandable, this is a dangerous road to go down.
Confronting the intolerable should be challenging and upsetting. Who could read the testimonies of Primo Levi and not feel intellectually and emotionally exhausted? Or Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, not to mention those of Malcolm X? It is the conditions that produce violence that should upset us ethically and prompt us to act responsibly, rather than to capitulate to a privatized emotional response that substitutes a therapeutic language for a political and worldly one.
There is more at work here than the infantilizing notion that students should be protected rather than challenged in the classroom; there is also the danger of creating a chilling effect on the part of faculty who want to address controversial topics such as war, poverty, spectacles of violence, racism, sexism and inequality. If American society wants to invest in its young people, it has an obligation to provide them with an education in which they are challenged, can learn to take risks, think outside the boundaries of established ideologies, and expand the far reaches of their creativity and critical judgment. This demands a pedagogy that is complicated, taxing and disruptive.
B.E.: You place the university at the center of a democratic and civil society. But considering that the university is not a politically neutral setting separate from power relations, you are concerned with what you term “gated intellectuals” who become seduced by the pursuit of power. Please explain this concept.
H.G.: Public universities across the globe are under attack not because they are failing, but because they are they are considered discretionary — unlike K-12 education for which funding is largely compulsory. The withdrawal of financial support has initiated a number of unsavory responses: Universities have felt compelled to turn towards corporate management models. They have effectively hobbled academic freedom by employing more precarious part-time instead of full-time faculty, and they increasingly treat students as consumers to be seduced by various campus gimmicks while burying the majority in debt.
My critique of what I have called “gated intellectuals” responds to these troubling trends by pointing to an increasingly isolated and privileged full-time faculty who believe that higher education still occupies the rarefied, otherworldly space of disinterested intellectualism of Cardinal Newman’s 19th century, and who defend their own indifference to social issues through appeals to professionalism or by condemning as politicized those academics who grapple with larger social issues. Some academics have gone so far as to suggest that criticizing the university is tantamount to destroying it. There is a type of intellectual violence at work here that ignores and often disparages the civic function of education while forgetting Hannah Arendt’s incisive admonition that “education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it.”
Supported by powerful conservative foundations and awash in grants from the defense and intelligence agencies, such gated intellectuals appear to have forgotten that in a democracy it is crucial to defend the university as a crucial democratic public sphere. This is not to suggest that they are silent. On the contrary, they provide the intellectual armory for war, the analytical supports for gun ownership, and lend legitimacy to a host of other policies that lead to everyday forms of structural violence and poverty. Not only have they succumbed to official power, they collude with it.
B.E.: I feel your recent work provides a somber updating of Arendt’s notion of “dark times,” hallmarked by political and intellectual catastrophe. How might we harness the power of education to reimagine the future in more inclusive and less violent terms?
H.G.: The current siege on higher education, whether through defunding education, eliminating tenure, tying research to military needs, or imposing business models of efficiency and accountability, poses a dire threat not only to faculty and students who carry the mantle of university self-governance, but also to democracy itself.
The solutions are complex and cannot be addressed in isolation from a range of other issues in the larger society such as the defunding of public goods, the growing gap between the rich and the poor, poverty and the reach of the prison-industrial complex into the lives of those marginalized by class and race.
We have to fight back against a campaign, as Gene R. Nichol puts it, “to end higher education’s democratizing influence on the nation.” To fight this, faculty, young people and others outside of higher education must collectively engage with larger social movements for the defense of public goods. We must address that as the welfare state is defunded and dismantled, the state turns away from enacting social provisions and becomes more concerned about security than social responsibility. Fear replaces compassion, and a survival-of-the-fittest ethic replaces any sense of shared concern for others.
Lost in the discourse of individual responsibility and self-help are issues like power, class and racism. Intellectuals need to create the public spaces in which identities, desires and values can be encouraged to act in ways conducive to the formation of citizens willing to fight for individual and social rights, along with those ideals that give genuine meaning to a representative democracy.
Any discussion of the fate of higher education must address how it is shaped by the current state of inequality in American society, and how it perpetuates it. Not only is such inequality evident in soaring tuition costs, inevitably resulting in the growing exclusion of working- and middle-class students from higher education, but also in the transformation of over two-thirds of faculty positions into a labor force of overworked and powerless adjunct faculty members. Faculty need to take back the university and reclaim modes of governance in which they have the power to teach and act with dignity, while denouncing and dismantling the increasing corporatization of the university and the seizing of power by administrators and their staff, who now outnumber faculty on most campuses.
In return, academics need to fight for the right of students to be given an education not dominated by corporate values. Higher education is a right, and not an entitlement. It should be free, as it is in many other countries, and as Robin Kelley points out, this should be true particularly for minority students. This is all the more crucial as young people have been left out of the discourse of democracy. Rather than invest in prisons and weapons of death, Americans need a society that invests in public and higher education.
There is more at stake here than making visible the vast inequities in educational and economic opportunities. Seeing education as a political form of intervention, offering a path toward racial and economic justice, is crucial in reimagining a new politics of hope. Universities should be subversive in a healthy society. They should push against the grain, and give voice to the voiceless the powerless and the whispers of truth that haunt the apostles of unchecked power and wealth. Pedagogy should be disruptive and unsettling, while pushing hard against established orthodoxies. Such demands are far from radical, and leave more to be done, but they point to a new beginning in the struggle over the role of higher education in the United States.
Anotações feitas em tinta em cerâmica. Michael Cordonsky/Israel Antiquities Authority via The New York Times
Eliashib, o intendente da remota fortaleza no deserto, recebia suas instruções por escrito, anotações feitas em tinta em cerâmica pedindo que provisões fossem enviadas para as forças no antigo reino de Judá.
Os pedidos por vinho, farinha e óleo parecem listas de compras mundanas, apesar de antigas. Mas uma nova análise da caligrafia sugere que a capacidade de ler e escrever era bem mais disseminada do que antes se sabia na Terra Santa por volta de 600 a.C., perto do final do período do Primeiro Templo. As conclusões, segundo pesquisadores da Universidade de Tel Aviv, pode ter alguma relevância para o debate de um século sobre quando o corpo principal dos textos bíblicos foi composto.
“Para Eliashib: agora, dê a Kittiyim 3 batos de vinho, e escreva o nome do dia”, diz um dos textos, compostos em hebraico antigo usando o alfabeto aramaico, e aparentemente referindo-se a uma unidade mercenária grega na área.
Outra dizia: “E um coro pleno de vinho, traga amanhã. Não atrase. E se tiver vinagre, dê a eles”.
O novo estudo, publicado na “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, combinou arqueologia, história judaica e matemática aplicada, assim como envolveu processamento de imagens por computador e o desenvolvimento de um algoritmo para distinguir entre os vários autores emitindo as ordens.
Com base na análise estatística dos resultados, e levando em consideração o conteúdo dos textos escolhidos como amostra, os pesquisadores concluíram que pelo menos seis mãos escreveram as 18 mensagens mais ou menos na mesma época. Até mesmo soldados das fileiras mais baixas do exército de Judá, ao que parece, sabiam ler e escrever.
“Há algo psicológico além das estatísticas”, disse o professor Israel Finkelstein, do Departamento de Arqueologia e Civilizações Antigas do Oriente Próximo da Universidade de Tel Aviv, um dos líderes do projeto. “Há um entendimento do poder da alfabetização. E eles escreviam bem, praticamente sem erros.”
O estudo se baseou em um conjunto de cerca de 100 cartas escritas com tinta em pedaços de cerâmica, conhecidos como óstracos, que foram descobertos perto do Mar Morto em escavações do forte Arad, décadas atrás, e datados de cerca de 600 a.C. Isso foi pouco antes da destruição de Jerusalém e do reino de Judá por Nabucodonosor, e o exílio de sua elite para a Babilônia, e antes de quando muitos acadêmicos acreditam que grande parte dos textos bíblicos, incluindo os cinco livros de Moisés também conhecidos como Pentateuco, foram escritos de forma coesa.
A cidadela de Arad era uma frente pequena, distante e ativa, próxima da fronteira com o reino rival de Edom. O forte em si tinha apenas cerca de 2.000 metros quadrados e provavelmente só acomodava cerca de 30 soldados. A riqueza dos textos encontrados ali, registrando movimentos de tropas, provisões e outras atividades diárias, foi criada em um período curto, o que os torna uma amostra valiosa para estudo de quantas mãos diferentes os escreveram.
“Para Eliashib: agora, forneça 3 batos de vinho”, ordenava outro óstraco, adicionando: “E Hananyahu ordena que envie a Beersheba 2 mulas carregadas e envie a massa de pão com elas”.
Um dos argumentos mais antigos para o corpo principal da literatura bíblica não ter sido escrito em nada parecido com sua presente forma até depois da destruição e exílio, em 586 a.C., é que antes não havia alfabetização suficiente e nem escribas suficientes para a realização de uma empreitada tão grande.
Mas se a taxa de alfabetização no forte Arad se repetir por todo o reino de Judá, que contava com cerca de 100 mil habitantes, haveria centenas de pessoas alfabetizadas, sugere a equipe de pesquisa de Tel Aviv.
Isso forneceria a infraestrutura para a composição das obras bíblicas que constituem a base da história e teologia de Judá, incluindo as primeiras versões dos livros do Deuteronômio ao Segundo Livro de Reis, segundo os pesquisadores.
Desde o século 19, os acadêmicos debatem “quando foi escrito?”, disse Finkelstein. “Na própria época ou depois”, ele acrescentou, referindo-se à destruição e exílio.
Nos séculos após a destruição e exílio, até 200 a.C., disse Finkelstein, praticamente não há evidência arqueológica de inscrições em hebraico. Ele disse que esperava que escavações revelassem selos gravados e escritos cotidianos em cerâmica, mesmo que textos mais importantes, como os bíblicos, fossem feitos em materiais perecíveis, como pergaminho e papiro.
Os textos bíblicos escritos nos séculos após 586 a.C., ele sugeriu, provavelmente foram compostos na Babilônia.
Outros acadêmicos alertaram contra extrair conclusões demais a respeito de quando a primeira grande parte da Bíblia foi escrita, com base em extrapolações a partir das taxas de alfabetização antigas.
“Não há um consenso atualmente nos estudos bíblicos”, disse o professor Edward Greenstein, da Universidade Bar-Ilan, perto de Tel Aviv. “O processo de transmissão era muito mais complicado do que os acadêmicos costumam pensar.”
O processo de composição da Torá, segundo Greenstein, parece ter envolvido camadas de reescrições, suplementos e revisões. Apontando para o saber recente da literatura bíblica, ele disse que os escribas podiam registrar os textos principalmente como auxílio à memória, em um mundo onde ainda eram transmitidos oralmente.
“Os textos bíblicos não precisavam ser escritos por muitas pessoas, ou lidos por muitas pessoas, para serem redigidos”, ele disse, acrescentando que os textos não circulavam amplamente.
Para deduzir as taxas de alfabetização, a equipe de pesquisa usou um método que Barak Sober, do Departamento de Matemática Aplicada da Universidade de Tel Aviv, comparou à análise forense de caligrafia adaptada aos tempos antigos.
Os matemáticos pegaram 16 cacos de cerâmica de Arad que eram mais ricos em conteúdo (dois apresentavam inscrições em ambos os lados). Dois dos textos lembravam uma chamada, apenas listando as pessoas presentes, e foram claramente escritos no posto avançado no deserto; outros foram compostos em outro lugar.
Muitas das cartas em aramaico não eram claras, de modo que não era possível dar simplesmente entrada dos dados em um computador. Em vez disso, os pesquisadores conceberam uma forma de reconstruí-las. Então as letras de pares de textos foram misturadas e o algoritmo as separou com base na caligrafia.
Se o algoritmo dividisse as letras em dois grupos claros, os textos eram contados como tendo sido escritos por dois autores. Quando o algoritmo não distinguia entre as letras e as deixava juntas em um grupo, nenhuma posição era tomada; elas podiam ter sido escritas pela mesma mão ou, possivelmente, por duas pessoas com estilo semelhante.
Um cálculo conservador revelou pelo menos quatro autores, e seis quando o conteúdo foi levado em consideração, como quem estava escrevendo para quem.
Outro óstraco foi endereçado a um homem chamado Nahum. Ele foi instruído a ir “até a casa de Eliashib, filho de Eshiyahu” para pegar um jarro de óleo, para enviá-lo a Ziph “rapidamente, o lacrando com seu selo”.
Humanities scholars are making strides in sectors from sustainability to robotics – why are so few people aware of their work?
Philosopher Don Howard worked with computer scientists on the ethics of ‘human-robot interaction’. Photograph: Alamy
Gretchen Busl, Assistant professor of English at Texas Woman’s University
Monday 19 October 2015 07.00 BSTLast modified on Monday 19 October 2015 21.23 BST
Deep in the corridors of Stanford University’s English department, graduate student Jodie Archer developed a computer model that can predict New York Times bestsellers. Her soon-to-be published research landed her a top job with Apple iBooks and may revolutionise the publishing industry. At the University of Notre Dame, philosopher Don Howard worked with a computer scientist to develop a code of ethics for “human-robot interaction” that could change the way Silicon Valley designs robots.
Both scholars share an academic background in humanities. And they join countless others working in fields such as technology, environmental sustainability and even infectious disease control.
In theory, our society cherishes the humanities – the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is even being celebrated with a ceremony at the White House. In its years, the NEH has awarded more than $5bn (£3.2m) in grants to promote innovative research and cultural projects, such as the development of a database to track the transatlantic slave trade and the preservation and publication of the Dead Sea scrolls.
Even so, congressional support for the humanities has plummeted along with federal, state and private funding. Adjusted for inflation, the current $146m budget for the NEH represents just half of its expenditure in 1980.
Part of the issue is an image problem around the impact of humanities research on the wider world. The public should know about Priscilla Wald, an English professor at Duke University, whose explanation of the “outbreak narrative” of contagion is changing the way scientists think about the spread of infectious diseases. They should know about environmental humanities professor Joni Adamson, who is applying the study of indigenous cultures to make desert cities into more sustainable ecosystems.
Most arguments for “saving” the humanities focus on the fact that employers prize the critical thinking and communication skills that undergraduate students develop. Although that may be true, such arguments highlight the value of classroom study, not the value of research.
But humanities research teaches us about the world beyond the classroom, and beyond a job. Humanities scholars explore ethical issues, and discover how the past informs the present and the future. Researchers delve into the discourses that construct gender, race, and class. We learn to decode the images that surround us; to understand and use the language necessary to navigate a complex and rapidly shifting world.
The academy itself is partly to blame for this image problem. The inward-focused nature of scholarship has left the public with no choice but to respond to our work with indifference and even disdain, because we have made little effort to demonstrate what purpose our work may have beyond the lecture hall or academic journal.
The traditional academic model does not reward public humanities scholarship. Rather, humanities scholars are saddled with the expectation of producing peer-reviewed articles and monographs published by university presses for tenure and promotion. This antiquated system encourages scholars to write and speak only for an audience of peers, keeping graduate students from branching away from the proto-book dissertation model and faculty from exploring popular venues for their work.
The potential applications of this type of research are endless – the examples above are the just the tip of the iceberg. And more employers need to see that such research has wide application outside of the academy. The American Council of Learned Societies Public Fellows programme is helping to facilitate this process by placing humanities PhDs in high-profile positions in government and non-profit organisations such as the US department of state, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaign.
Humanities scholars need to take what feels – right now – like a risk, and engage in more public scholarship. After all, we are the best qualified to talk about our own work. And we need our chairs, our deans and our provosts to afford us the support and incentives to do so.
The payoff will not only be in increased visibility and perceived value for humanities research, but the opportunity to make an impact that is much greater than that offered by the solitary scholar model.
The social sciences and humanities will be critical in helping us understand what the sciences will become in the future
DISMANTLING THE OLD:“There is an urgent need to initiate a generational change in India’s university leadership.” Picture shows graduation day in the University of Hyderabad.— PHOTO: MOHAMMED YOUSUF
Common sense has defeated the social sciences and humanities in India. As the rush for college seats begin, parents worry if there are any viable options outside of medicine, engineering, management or studying abroad. What good would a B.A. in history or sociology do other than a roll-of-the-dice chance at the civil services? As a historian, I have often faced blunt questions: what can a job prospect possibly be if you spend three/four years learning the causes of Mughal decline or the Permanent Settlement of 1793? This ably describes why most people see the social sciences, with the exception of economics, as a losing proposition. But has the tide begun to turn?
One of the most significant bursts of funding in the social sciences and the humanities occurred during the Cold War years. The United States, keen as it was then to establish spheres of influence, invested heavily to learn about how societies understood themselves and which ideology appealed to what individual. The money ran into hundreds of millions of dollars with the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York pulling funds from deep pockets. The Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies were other key players who helped sponsor innumerable workshops, conferences and academic seminars. These efforts resulted not only in a vast number of publications, but helped develop many enduring concepts which arguably continue to explain the world we live in. Scores of scholars, research communities and university departments, in being caught up in strategic concerns, ended up harnessing the social sciences and humanities to understand how nations and societies dealt with authority, ideologies, politics and power. Hardly the ‘soft sciences’!
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, funding for the Area Studies expectedly dried up. On the other hand, academic explorations under the rubrics of nation-making, democracy, globalisation and multiculturalism could hardly wield the previous heft.
In a study published in Research Trends (2013), Gali Halevi and Judit Bar-Ilanit point out that globally the financing for humanities sharply fell between 2009 and 2012. In part, while the 2008 financial crisis could be blamed for the sudden yanking of the proverbial rug, the loss in the lustre of the social sciences had already begun by the mid-1990s following the steady commercialisation of education. Unsurprisingly, student debt and education loans fell harder on those in the social sciences, arts and humanities than they did on those pursuing vocational skills such as engineering. At heart, however, this big turn against the ‘soft sciences’ was what Bill Reading described, in his classic The University in Ruins (1996), as the sustained attempt to transform the university from previously serving as an “ideological arm of the nation-state” to instead now being redesigned as a “consumer oriented corporation”. By morphing the citizen-student into a consumer-student (weighed in by debt), the actual rout of the social sciences was announced.
It is amidst the aftershocks of this change in the meaning of education that we should make sense of Ella Delany’s startling report in The New York Times (December, 2013) in which she catalogues a growing disquiet against the humanities and social sciences. In 2012, a task force convened by Governor Rick Scott of Florida recommended that students majoring in liberal arts and social science subjects be made to pay higher tuition fees as they were in “nonstrategic disciplines”. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2013 “reprioritised” 103 million Australian dollars from research in the humanities into medical research. In Britain, Robin Jackson, chief executive of the British Academy for the humanities and social sciences, in 2011 announced that direct government funding for humanities had been withdrawn and was to be replaced by tuition fees “backed up by government loans”.
Is this total defeat? Ironically, just as the social sciences and the humanities are being written off in many countries, there have emerged vigorous calls for resituating its importance. Notably, climate change research and global environmental change programmes the world over are stridently advocating for what they term as the urgent need for “integrated analyses”. It is imperative, they argue, that the natural sciences be drawn into productive dialogues with the social sciences in order to explore critical themes such as global sustainability and green development.
One of the most significant international science initiatives in recent times called the Future Earth has, in fact, in their ‘Strategic Research Agenda’ (2014) urged for initiating a new generation in interdisciplinary and integrated research which can grapple with the realities of a warming planet. The initiative, however, is not entirely novel. For decades now, interdisciplinary efforts such as science studies, environmental history and full-fledged post graduate programmes under the rubric of science-technology-environment-medicine (STEM) have successfully broken down the hard divides between the natural sciences, social sciences and the humanities. These interdisciplinary initiatives have also compellingly revealed that the natural sciences are ideologically driven and are often oriented by political practice. In effect, the social sciences and humanities will be critical to help us understand what the sciences will become in the future. Significantly, given that an entirely new script for economic behaviour is being drafted in the context of climate change, these conversations have acquired pressing strategic consequences for the developing world.
The Indian scenario
The university system in India is, unfortunately, ill-prepared to take up these challenges. In part, it has put all its research and teaching eggs on the vice-chancellor system for administering higher education. The vice-chancellorship, as an organisational logic, is an ailing legacy and remains a bad marriage between the Mughal Jagirdari system and the rigidity of the British colonial bureaucracy. The higher you go up the administrative ladder, there is less transparency, accountability and intellectual oxygen.
There is an urgent need to initiate a generational change in our university leadership, with fresh blood and new ideas brought in with rigorous metrics to judge the performance and contributions at the very top of the administrative chain. If the social sciences and the humanities in India are to be cutting edge by providing knowledge for the future, then the old has to be entirely dismantled.
(Rohan D’Souza is associate professor at the Graduate School of Asian and African Area Studies, Kyoto University.)
The natural sciences should be drawn into dialogues with the social sciences to explore critical themes such as global sustainability
Evento atraiu parcela de leigos interessados em comprovar que o desenvolvimento científico pode ser uma solução para os problemas socioeconômicos do Brasil
Para participantes e organizadores da Reunião Magna 2015 da Academia Brasileira de Ciências, realizada de 4 a 6 de maio, no Rio de Janeiro, é, sem dúvida, difícil elencar os momentos que mais capturaram a atenção. A excelência dos temas escolhidos para as sessões, assim como o alto nível dos palestrantes, atraiu um público variado, que reuniu desde jovens talentos da Ciência no Brasil aos renomados integrantes da Academia e que há anos trabalham, dentro e fora de laboratórios, para que o Brasil ganhe destaque no cenário de produção científica internacional.
Sob o tema “O Valor da Ciência”, na acepção de Poincaré, matemático, físico e filósofo francês que conferiu uma nova abordagem à Ciência entre os séculos XIX e XX, a Reunião Magna 2015 estimulou a discussão em torno do valor intrínseco de atividade científica _ ciência pela ciência_, ressaltando a importância da Ciência para o desenvolvimento socioeconômico brasileiro. Entre as palestras, um denominador comum ficou claro, é preciso estimular a ousadia dos jovens cientistas para que as pesquisas se transformem em inovação. Outro ponto em comum das apresentações dos cientistas foi a importância do trabalho de equipe e valorização de cada colaborador em uma pesquisa.
Ganhadora do Prêmio Nobel de Química e primeira mulher israelense a obter a premiação, a cientista Ada Yonath mostrou que o bom humor é um traço dos pesquisadores, que têm o brilho no olhar ao comprovar o fundamento de suas pesquisas. Após sua palestra no último dia da Reunião Magna, Ada conheceu o Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas da UFRJ. Recebida pelo vice-diretor do Instituto, prof. José Garcia Abreu, e pela coordenadora do Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciências Morfológicas da UFRJ, profa. Flávia Alcantara Gomes, Membro Afiliado da ABC, Ada afirmou, com relação às perguntas dos alunos de pós-graduação, sobre o que representou ganhar o prêmio Nobel, que “ganhar o prêmio foi bom…. mas entender a estrutura dos ribossomos foi o que me deu de fato a maior satisfação”. Ela deixou claro que o prazer da descoberta científica deve estar acima do prazer do reconhecimento.
O prazer de concluir uma pesquisa e ver o trabalho de anos refletindo em um bem maior para sociedade também foi a mensagem do biólogo francês Jules Hoffmann, vencedor do Prêmio Nobel de Fisiologia/ Medicina de 2011, por um trabalho feito com Bruce Beutler que descobriu a ativação da imunidade inata. Ele capturou atenção máxima de todo o público do segundo dia da Reunião Magna de 2015. Atualmente à frente da direção da área de pesquisa e membro do Conselho de Administração do Centro Nacional de Pesquisa Científica da França (CNRS), ele enalteceu a contribuição de todos os demais integrantes de sua equipe, que, segundo ele, foram fundamentais para o resultado.
Respostas às inquietudes
Ao final do evento, o coordenador da Reunião Magna 2015, professor Vivaldo Moura Neto, disse ao Jornal da Ciência que a escolha do tema teve a intenção de destacar o prazer humano de fazer ciência, de buscar respostas às inquietudes do homem diante da natureza. Segundo ele, é preciso valorizar a Ciência no que ela pode trazer como implicações no desenvolvimento tecnológico, inovador e assim certamente contribuir para o desenvolvimento do país.
“Nós, hoje como ontem e ainda amanhã, precisaremos estar atentos a isto. Será preciso que os governantes reconheçam a contribuição da Ciência brasileira ao desenvolvimento, uma ciência madura, produtiva, rica de possibilidades para atender ao desenvolvimento nacional. Repetimos isto durante os três dias, demonstramos esta verdade com projetos em curso e resultados testados”, disse. “Vejam exemplos do que se faz no CENPES, na COPPE, nos Institutos do Centro de Ciências da saúde da UFRJ, na USP, na Universidade de Campinas, na Bioquímica da UFRGS, no Instituto do Cérebro da PUC-do Rio Grande do Sul, ou o trabalho dos virologistas no Pará, além de tantos mais. De fato, o encontro permitiu mostrar o quanto estamos prontos para oferecer, a partir da ciência fundamental, os produtos que ela sabe gerar. Os engenheiros foram contundentes nos seus exemplos. É incrível a miopia de tantos que, lá do alto, não veem o que se passa aqui na terra brasilis”, completou o coordenador da Reunião Magna 2015.
Atrair os jovens
Nesta edição, a Reunião Magna atraiu, além de cientistas experientes e jovens talentos da produção científica, um grupo expressivo de “leigos”, segundo o professor Moura Neto. “Nos três dias da Reunião, houve relatos das experiências dos mais vividos, mas todos nós sabemos que não se faz um pesquisador, não se faz um cientista, de repente. É preciso atrair os jovens, entusiasmá-los, orientá-los. No entanto, não havia apenas jovens de centros universitários, ou os mais experientes da ciência, havia uma parcela de leigos, que certamente encontrou na Reunião Magna uma fonte de conhecimento, uma esperança de que se poderá melhorar o país. Seria interessante, naturalmente, que os governantes também vissem isto”, completou Moura Neto.
Sobre a participação dos convidados estrangeiros e da sua percepção sobre o desenvolvimento da produção científica no Brasil, o coordenador da Reunião Magna 2015 disse que eles já têm colaboração com equipes brasileiras. “Se eles mantêm estas colaborações, é porque sabem da qualidade excelente do que fazemos aqui. Eles mesmo disseram isto, como por exemplo o matemático francês Etiennen Ghys, que aliás fez parte de sua formação no Rio de Janeiro, no IMPA”, comentou.
Segundo Moura Neto, o prêmio Nobel Jules Hoffmann enalteceu, nas suas conversas de corredor na ABC, durante o evento, a satisfação de suas colaborações com esquipes paulistas. O coordenador da Reunião Magna também comentou que a cientista Ada Yonath, que, segundo ele, encantou a todos com uma conferência espetacular, manifestou possibilidades de colaborar com grupos brasileiros. “Se eles querem estas colaborações é porque nos reconhecem ombro a ombro”, finalizou.
In this excerpt from More Than a Score, Jesse Hagopian explains who the “testocracy” are, what they want – for everybody else’s children and for their own – and why more people than ever before are resisting tests and working collectively to reclaim public education.
Who are these testocrats who would replace teaching with testing? The testocracy, in my view, does not only refer to the testing conglomerates—most notably the multibillion-dollar Pearson testing and textbook corporation—that directly profit from the sale of standardized exams. The testocracy is also the elite stratum of society that finances and promotes competition and privatization in public education rather than collaboration, critical thinking, and the public good. Not dissimilar to a theocracy, under our current testocracy, a deity—in this case the exalted norm-referenced bubble exam—is officially recognized as the civil ruler of education whose policy is governed by officials that regard test results as divine. The testocratic elite are committed to reducing the intellectual and emotional process of teaching and learning to a single number—a score they subsequently use to sacrifice education on the altar devoted to high-stakes testing by denying students promotion or graduation, firing teachers, converting schools into privatized charters, or closing schools altogether. You’ve heard of this program; the testocracy refers to it as “education reform.”
Among the most prominent members of the testocracy are some of the wealthiest people the world has ever known.
Among the most prominent members of the testocracy are some of the wealthiest people the world has ever known. Its tsars include billionaires Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and members of the Walton family (the owners of Walmart), who have used their wealth to circumvent democratic processes and impose test-and-punish policies in public education. They fund a myriad of organizations—such as Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst, Teach for America, and Stand for Children—that serve as shock troops to enforce the implantation of high-stakes testing and corporate education reform in states and cities across the nation. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan serves to help coordinate and funnel government money to the various initiatives of the testocracy. The plan to profit from public schools was expressed by billionaire media executive Rupert Murdoch, when he said in a November 2010 press release: “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”
Testing companies got the memo and are working diligently to define great teaching as preparing students for norm-referenced exams—available to districts across the country if the price is right. The textbook and testing industry generates between $20 billion and $30 billion dollars per year. Pearson, a multi-national corporation based in Britain, brings in more than $9 billion annually, and is the world’s largest education company and book publisher. But it’s not the only big testing company poised to profit from the testocracy. Former president George W. Bush’s brother Neil and his parents founded a company called Ignite! Learning to sell test products after the passage of No Child Left Behind.
“An Invalid Measure”: The Fundamental Flaws of Standardized Testing
The swelling number of test-defiers is rooted in the increase of profoundly flawed standardized exams. Often, these tests don’t reflect the concepts emphasized in the students’ classes and, just as often, the results are not available until after the student has already left the teacher’s classroom, rendering the test score useless as a tool for informing instruction. Yet the problem of standardized bubble tests’ usefulness for educators extends well beyond the lag time (which can be addressed by computerized tests that immediately calculate results). A standardized bubble test does not help teachers understand how a student arrived at answer choice “C.” The student may have selected the right answer but not known why it was right, or conversely, may have chosen the wrong answer but had sophisticated reasoning that shows a deeper understanding of the concept than someone else who randomly guessed correctly. Beyond the lack of utility of standardized testing in facilitating learning there is a more fundamental flaw. A norm-referenced, standardized test compares each individual student to everyone else taking the test, and the score is then usually reported as a percentile. Alfie Kohn describes the inherent treachery of the norm-referenced test:
No matter how many students take an NRT [norm-referenced test], no matter how well or poorly they were taught, no matter how difficult the questions are, the pattern of results is guaranteed to be the same: Exactly 10 percent of those who take the test will score in the top 10 percent. And half will always fall below the median. That’s not because our schools are failing; that’s because of what the word median means.
And as professor of education Wayne Au explained in 2011, when he was handed a bullhorn at the Occupy Education protest outside the headquarters of Gates Foundation, “If all the students passed the test you advocate, that test would immediately be judged an invalid metric, and any measure of students which mandates the failure of students is an invalid measure.”
Researchers have long known that what standardized tests measure above all else is a student’s access to resources.
Unsurprisingly, the Gates Foundation was not swayed by the logic of Au’s argument. That is because standardized testing serves to reinforce the mythology of a meritocracy in which those on the top have achieved their position rightfully—because of their hard work, their dedication to hitting the books, and their superior intelligence as proven by their scores. But what researchers have long known is that what standardized tests measure above all else is a student’s access to resources. The most damning truth about standardized tests is that they are a better indicator of a student’s zip code than a student’s aptitude. Wealthier, and predominantly whiter, districts score better on tests. Their scores do not reflect the intelligence of wealthier, mostly white students when compared to those of lower-income students and students of color, but do reflect the advantages that wealthier children have—books in the home, parents with more time to read with them, private tutoring, access to test-prep agencies, high-quality health care, and access to good food, to name a few. This is why attaching high stakes to these exams only serves to exacerbate racial and class inequality. As Boston University economics professors Olesya Baker and Kevin Lang’s 2013 study, “The School to Prison Pipeline Exposed,” reveals, the increases in the use of high-stakes standardized high school exit exams are linked to higher incarceration rates. Arne Duncan’s refusal to address the concerns raised by this study exposes the bankruptcy of testocratic policy.
Hypocrisy of the Testocracy
At first glance it would be easy to conclude that the testocracy’s strategy for public schools is the result of profound ignorance. After all, members of the testocracy have never smelled a free or reduced-price lunch yet throw a tantrum when public school advocates suggest poverty is a substantial factor in educational outcomes. The testocracy has never had to puzzle over the conundrum of having more students than available chairs in the classroom, yet they are the very same people who claim class size doesn’t matter in educational outcomes. The bubble of luxury surrounding the testocracy has convinced many that most testocrats are too far removed from the realities facing the majority of US residents to ever understand the damage caused by the high-stakes bubble tests they peddle. While it is true that the corporate reform moguls are completely out of touch with the vast majority of people, their strategy for remaking our schools on a business model is not the result of ignorance but of arrogance, not of misunderstanding but of the profit motive, not of silliness but rather of a desire for supremacy.
In fact, you could argue that the MAP test boycott did not actually begin at Garfield High School. A keen observer might recognize that the boycott of the MAP test—and so many other standardized tests—began in earnest at schools like Seattle’s elite private Lakeside High School, alma mater of Bill Gates, where he sends his children, because, of course, Lakeside, like one-percenter schools elsewhere, would never inundate its students with standardized tests. These academies, predominantly serving the children of the financially fortunate, shield students from standardized tests because they want their children to be allowed to think outside the bubble test, to develop critical thinking skills and prioritize time to explore art, music, drama, athletics, and debate. Gates values Lakeside because of its lovely campus, where the average class size is sixteen, the library contains some twenty thousand volumes, and the new sports facility offers cryotherapy and hydrotherapy spas. Moreover, while Gates, President Obama, and Secretary of Education Duncan are all parents of school-age children, none of those children attend schools that use the CCSS or take Common Core exams. As Dao X. Tran, then PTA co-chair at Castle Bridge Elementary School, put it (in chapter 20 of More Than a Score): “These officials don’t even send their children to public schools. They are failing our children, yet they push for our children’s teachers to be accountable based on children’s test data. All while they opt for their own children to go to schools that don’t take these tests, that have small class sizes and project-based, hands-on, arts-infused learning—that’s what we want for our children!” The superrich are not failing to understand the basics of how to provide a nurturing education for the whole child. The problem is that they believe this type of education should be reserved only for their own children.
A Brief History of Test-defying
The United States has a long history of using standardized testing for the purposes of ranking and sorting youth into different strata of society. In fact, standardized tests originally entered the public schools with the eugenics movement, a white-supremacist ideology cloaked in the shabby garments of fraudulent science that became fashionable in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As Rethinking Schools editorialized,
The United States has a long history of using intelligence tests to support white supremacy and class stratification. Standardized tests first entered the public schools in the 1920s, pushed by eugenicists whose pseudoscience promoted the “natural superiority” of wealthy, white, U.S.-born males. High-stakes standardized tests have disguised class and race privilege as merit ever since. The consistent use of test scores to demonstrate first a “mental ability” gap and now an “achievement” gap exposes the intrinsic nature of these tests: They are built to maintain inequality, not to serve as an antidote to educational disparities.
When the first “common schools” began in the late 1800s, industrialists quickly recognized an opportunity to shape the schools in the image of their factories. These early “education reformers” recognized the value of using standardized tests—first developed in the form of IQ tests used to sort military recruits for World War I—to evaluate the efficiency of the teacher workforce in producing the “student-product.” Proud eugenicist and Princeton University professor Carl Brigham left his school during World War I to implement IQ testing as an army psychologist. Upon returning to Princeton, Brigham developed the SAT exam as the admissions gatekeeper to Princeton, and the test confirmed in his mind that whites born in the United States were the most intelligent of all peoples. As Alan Stoskopf wrote, “By the early 1920s, more than 2 million American school children were being tested primarily for academic tracking purposes. At least some of the decisions to allocate resources and select students for academic or vocational courses were influenced by eugenic notions of student worth.”
Some of the most important early voices in opposition to intelligence testing came from leading African American scholars.
Resistance to these exams surely began the first time a student bubbled in every “A” on the page in defiance of the entire testing process. Yet, beyond these individual forms of protest, an active minority of educators, journalists, labor groups, and parents resisted these early notions of using testing to rank intelligence. Some of the most important early voices in opposition to intelligence testing—especially in service of ranking the races—came from leading African American scholars such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Horace Mann Bond, and Howard Long. Du Bois recalled in 1940, “It was not until I was long out of school and indeed after the [First] World War that there came the hurried use of the new technique of psychological tests, which were quickly adjusted so as to put black folk absolutely beyond the possibility of civilization.”
In a statement that is quite apparently lost on today’s testocracy, Horace Mann Bond, in his work “Intelligence Tests and Propaganda,” wrote:
But so long as any group of men attempts to use these tests as funds of information for the approximation of crude and inaccurate generalizations, so long must we continue to cry, “Hold!” To compare the crowded millions of New York’s East Side with the children of Morningside Heights [an upper-class neighborhood at the time] indeed involves a great contradiction; and to claim that the results of the tests given to such diverse groups, drawn from such varying strata of the social complex, are in any wise accurate, is to expose a fatuous sense of unfairness and lack of appreciation of the great environmental factors of modern urban life.
This history of test-defiers was largely buried until the mass uprisings of the civil rights and Black Power movements of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s transformed public education. In the course of these broad mass movements, parents, students, teachers, and activists fought to integrate the schools, budget for equitable funding, institute ethnic studies programs, and even to redefine the purpose of school.
In the Jim Crow–segregated South, literacy was inherently political and employed as a barrier to prevent African Americans from exercising their right to vote. The great activist and educator Myles Horton was a founder of the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee that would go on to help organize the Citizenship Schools of the mid-1950s and 1960s. The Citizenship Schools’ mission was to create literacy programs to help disenfranchised Southern blacks achieve access to the voting booth. Hundreds of thousands of African Americans attended the Citizenship Schools, which launched one of the most important educational programs of the civil rights movement, redefining the purpose of education and the assessment of educational outcomes. Horton described one of the Citizenship Schools he helped to organize, saying, “It was not a literacy class. It was a community organization. . . . They were talking about using their citizenship to do something, and they named it a Citizenship School, not a literacy school. That helped with the motivation.” By the end of the class more than 80 percent of those students passed the final examination, which was to go down to the courthouse and register to vote!
What the Testocracy Wants
The great civil rights movements of the past have reimagined education as a means to creating a more just society. The testocracy, too, has a vision for reimagining the education system and it is flat-out chilling. The testocracy is relentlessly working on new methods to reduce students to data points that can be used to rank, punish, and manipulate. Like something out of a dystopian sci-fi film, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation spent $1.4 million to develop bio-metric bracelets designed to send a small current across the skin to measure changes in electrical charges as the sympathetic nervous system responds to stimuli. These “Q Sensors” would then be used to monitor a student’s “excitement, stress, fear, engagement, boredom and relaxation through the skin.” Presumably, then, VAM assessments could be extended to evaluate teachers based on this biometric data. As Diane Ravitch explained to Reuters when the story broke in the spring of 2012, “They should devote more time to improving the substance of what is being taught . . . and give up all this measurement mania.”
But the testocracy remains relentless in its quest to give up on teaching and devote itself to data collection. In a 2011 TIME magazine feature on the future of education, readers are asked to “imagine walking into a classroom and seeing no one in the front of the classroom. Instead you’re led to a computer terminal at a desk and told this will be your teacher for the course. The only adults around are a facilitator to make sure that you stay on task and to fix any tech problems that may arise.” TIME goes on to point out, “For some Florida students, computer-led instruction is a reality. Within the Miami-Dade County Public School district alone, 7,000 students are receiving this form of education, including six middle and K–8 schools, according to the New York Times.” This approach to schooling is known as “e-learning labs,” and from the perspective of the testocracy, if education is about getting a high score, then one hardly needs nurturing, mentorship, or human contact to succeed. Computers can be used to add value—the value of rote memorization, discipline, and basic literacy skills—to otherwise relatively worthless students. Here, then, is a primary objective of an education system run by the testocracy: replace the compassionate hand of the educator with the cold, invisible, all-thumbs hand of the free market.
Summary: If you like numbers, you will love March 14, 2015. When written as a numerical date, it’s 3/14/15, corresponding to the first five digits of pi (3.1415) — a once-in-a-century coincidence! Pi Day, which would have been the 136th birthday of Albert Einstein, is a great excuse to eat pie, and to appreciate how important the number pi is to math and science.
Take JPL Education’s Pi Day challenge featuring real-world questions about NASA spacecraft — then tweet your answers to @NASAJPL_Edu using the hashtag #PiDay. Answers will be revealed on March 16. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
If you like numbers, you will love March 14, 2015. When written as a numerical date, it’s 3/14/15, corresponding to the first five digits of pi (3.1415) — a once-in-a-century coincidence! Pi Day, which would have been the 136th birthday of Albert Einstein, is a great excuse to eat pie, and to appreciate how important the number pi is to math and science.
Pi is the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle. Any time you want to find out the distance around a circle when you have the distance across it, you will need this formula.
Despite its frequent appearance in math and science, you can’t write pi as a simple fraction or calculate it by dividing two integers (…3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3…). For this reason, pi is said to be “irrational.” Pi’s digits extend infinitely and without any pattern, adding to its intrigue and mystery.
Pi is useful for all kinds of calculations involving the volume and surface area of spheres, as well as for determining the rotations of circular objects such as wheels. That’s why pi is important for scientists who work with planetary bodies and the spacecraft that visit them.
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, pi makes a frequent appearance. It’s a staple for Marc Rayman, chief engineer and mission director for NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn went into orbit around dwarf planet Ceres on March 6. Rayman uses a formula involving pi to calculate the length of time it takes the spacecraft to orbit Ceres at any given altitude. You can also use pi to think about Earth’s rotation.
“On Pi Day, I will think about the nature of a day, as Earth’s rotation on its axis carries me on a circle 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) in circumference, which I calculated using pi and my latitude,” Rayman said.
Steve Vance, a planetary chemist and astrobiologist at JPL, also frequently uses pi. Lately, he has been using pi in his calculations of how much hydrogen might be available for chemical processes, and possibly biology, in the ocean beneath the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa.
“To calculate the hydrogen produced in a given unit area, we divide by Europa’s surface area, which is the area of a sphere with a radius of 970 miles (1,561 kilometers),” Vance said.
Luisa Rebull, a research scientist at NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, also considers pi to be important in astronomy. When calculating the distance between stars in a projection of the sky, scientists use a special kind of geometry called spherical trigonometry. That’s an extension of the geometry you probably learned in middle school, but it takes place on a sphere rather than a flat plane.
“In order to do these calculations, we need to use formulae, the derivation of which uses pi,” she said. “So, this is pi in the sky!”
Make sure to note when the date and time spell out the first 10 digits of pi: 3.141592653. On 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 a.m., it is literally the most perfectly “pi” time of the century — so grab a slice of your favorite pie, and celebrate math!
For more fun with pi, check out JPL Education’s second annual Pi Day challenge, featuring real-world NASA math problems. NASA/JPL education specialists, with input from scientists and engineers, have crafted questions involving pi aimed at students in grades 4 through 11, but open to everyone. Take a crack at them at:
SÃO PAULO – Para quem gosta de matemática, uma boa leitura é “Mathematics and the Real World” (matemática e o mundo real), de Zvi Artstein, professor do Instituto Weizmann, de Israel.
O autor começa dividindo a matemática em duas, uma mais natural, que a evolução nos preparou (e também a outros bichos) para compreender, e outra totalmente abstrata, cuja intelecção exige refrear todas as nossas intuições. No primeiro grupo estão a aritmética e parte da geometria. No segundo, destacam-se lógica formal, estatística, teoria dos conjuntos e o grosso do material sobre o qual se debruçam hoje os matemáticos.
Egípicios, babilônios, indianos e outros povos da Antiguidade desenvolveram razoavelmente bem a matemática natural. Fizeram-no por razões práticas, como facilitar o comércio e o cálculo astrológico. Foram os gregos, contudo, que, tentando escapar ao que consideravam ilusões de ótica do mundo sensível, resolveram fiar-se na matemática para descobrir o “real”. É aqui que a matemática ganha autonomia para florescer para além das intuições.
Na sequência, Artstein traça uma interessantíssima história da ciência, destacando quais transformações foram necessárias na matemática para que pudessem firmar-se teorias e modelos como heliocentrismo, gravitação universal, relatividade, mecânica quântica, cordas etc. Não foge, embora nem sempre desenvolva muito, das implicações filosóficas.
O autor discute também assuntos mais classicamente matemáticos, como incerteza, caos, infinito, os teoremas da incompletude de Gödel. Numa concessão ao mundo prático, aborda quase apressadamente algumas questões da sociologia e da computação. Finaliza advogando por reformas no ensino da matemática.
O bacana do livro é que Artstein consegue transformar um assunto potencialmente árido num texto que se lê com a fluidez de um romance. Não é para qualquer um.
Source: International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
Summary: According to new research, education makes people less vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods, landslides, and storms that are expected to intensify with climate change.
Given that some climate change is already unavoidable–as just confirmed by the new IPCC report–investing in empowerment through universal education should be an essential element in climate change adaptation efforts, which so far focus mostly in engineering projects, according to a new study from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) published in the journal Science.
The article draws upon extensive analysis of natural disaster data for 167 countries over the past four decades as well as a number of studies carried out in individual countries and regions, published last year in a special issue of the journal Ecology and Society.
The research shows that in many cases–particularly where the exact consequences of climate change are still unclear–educational expansion could be a better investment in protecting people from the impacts than conventional investments such as building sea walls, dams, irrigation systems, and other infrastructure.
“Education is key in reducing disaster fatalities and enhancing adaptive capacity,” says Wolfgang Lutz, Director of IIASA’s World Population Program and Founding Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, a collaboration of IIASA, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and the Vienna University of Economics, who wrote the article together with IIASA researchers Raya Muttarak and Erich Striessnig, who have dual affiliations with the Vienna Institute of Demography and the Vienna University of Economics and Business, respectively.
“Our research shows that education is more important than GDP in reducing mortality from natural disasters. We also demonstrated that under rapid development and educational expansion across the globe, disaster fatalities will be reduced substantially,” says Muttarak.
Climate models project that extreme weather events such as hurricanes are likely to increase with climate change. And with rising sea levels, floods will become a greater danger in low-lying coastal areas. So researchers from IIASA’s World Population Program launched a major research project to explore the connections between fatality rates in such disasters, education levels, and other potential factors that could contribute to resilience such as wealth and health.
Previous research had shown that education plays a major role in development, including poverty alleviation and economic growth. In regard to climate change adaption, “Education directly improves knowledge, the ability to understand and process information, and risk perception. It also indirectly enhances socioeconomic status and social capital. These are qualities and skills useful for surviving and coping with disasters,” says Muttarak.
The new study shows that education is the key factor in enhancing adaptive capacity to already unavoidable climate change. This insight is also reflected in the new generation of IPCC-related scenarios, the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) which were developed by IIASA researchers in collaboration with other leading global change research institutes to jointly capture different future socioeconomic challenges for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Using these SSPs, the new study illustrates how alternative future trajectories in education lead to greatly differing numbers of expected deaths due to climate change. Therefore, says Striessnig, “Investment in human capital not only empowers people to achieve desirable socioeconomic outcomes, but it also has a protective function against diverse impacts climate change may have over the coming decades.”
With 100 billion dollars currently pledged per year for climate funding through the Green Climate Fund, the researchers say it is vital to examine where the money would have the greatest impact.
Striessnig says, “We need to think about how to best allocate the funds raised for the adaptation to future climate change. Currently many of these funds are destined to support less flexible engineering projects or agricultural strategies. Such efforts are also vitally important, but in light of the major uncertainties about climate change impacts, it makes sense to invest some of the funds in mechanisms that will empower people to flexibly adapt to whatever changes might occur.”
Lutz W, Muttarak R, Striessnig E. Universal education is key to enhanced climate adaptation. Science, 28 November 2014 %u2022 Vol. 346 no. 6213 DOI: 10.1126/science.1257975
O deputado federal e pastor Marco Feliciano (PSC-SP) apresentou à Câmara dos Deputados nesta quinta-feira (13/11) um Projeto de Lei que torna obrigatório o ensino do criacionismo – doutrina religiosa que se opõe à teoria da Evolução de Darwin – nas escolas públicas e privadas do Brasil. Antes de ser discutido e votado, o PL será encaminhado para a Comissão de Constituição e Justiça (CCJ).
A proposta de lei afirma que as grades curriculares brasileiras deverão incluir “noções de que a vida tem sua origem em Deus, como criador supremo de todo universo e de todas as coisas que o compõe”. Segundo o texto, ele deverá ser ensinado “analogamente ao evolucionismo, alternância de conhecimento de fonte diversa a fim de que o estudante avalie cognitivamente ambas as disciplinas” (sic).
Os argumentos que sustentam o PL apontam que é necessário inserir o “conceito de origem divina”, pois “ensinar apenas a teoria do evolucionismo nas escolas é violar a liberdade de crença, uma vez que a maioria das religiões brasileiras acredita no criacionismo”.
Helena Nader, presidenta da Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC), associação que congrega mais de 130 sociedades científicas, afirmou que “negar Darwin é voltar ao obscurantismo”.
“A ciência nunca quis discutir a fé. Mas parece que algumas religiões estão interessadas em discutir a ciência”, alertou.
A pesquisadora lembrou que não é a primeira vez que esse tipo de proposta tramita no legislativo brasileiro e que a SBPC manterá seu posicionamento contrário.
“É preciso esclarecer que nada na ciência elimina, para quem acredita, a presença de um ser superior. Por isso, confundir criacionismo com ciência é inadmissível”, defendeu.
O texto descreve as crianças que frequentam as escolas públicas como “confusas”, pois estariam aprendendo noções de evolucionismo na escola e criacionismo na igreja. Para o deputado, “o ensino darwinista limita a visão cosmológica de mundo existencialista levando os estudantes a desacreditarem da existência de um criador que está acima das frágeis conjecturas humanas forjadas em tubos de ensaio laboratorial”.
Mas o próprio PL também apresenta suas confusões, ao misturar a teoria do Big Bang – que explica o surgimento do universo – com a teoria da Evolução. “Como é sabido, hoje vigora nos currículos escolares o ensino do Evolucionismo, propagando que a vida originou-se de uma “célula primitiva que se pôs em movimento pelo ‘Big Bang’”, diz o texto.
Até o fechamento desta reportagem, o Portal Aprendiz não conseguiu contato com o deputado Marco Feliciano.
A Lei de Diretrizes e Bases da Educação Nacional (LDB) dispõe que o ensino religioso é parte integrante da formação básica do cidadão e é uma disciplina facultativa das escolas públicas de ensino fundamental, “assegurando o respeito à diversidade cultural religiosa do Brasil, vedadas quaisquer formas de proselitismo”. Em outras palavras, é possível que comunidades escolares se organizem para ensinar história e filosofia das religiões, mas sem qualquer forma de doutrinação.
A falta de água pode servir de gancho para discutir sobre gestão de recursos hídricos e consumo consciente
Nos últimos meses, as discussões sobre a água e o consumo consciente ganharam espaço em razão do período de seca nas regiões sudeste e nordeste e com a crise no abastecimento que atinge o estado de São Paulo, maior metrópole do país. Atualmente, o Sistema Cantareira, principal responsável por abastecer a região, opera com apenas 3% do volume dos seus reservatórios. Diante desse cenário, como o professor pode discutir o tema em sala de aula? O Porvir conversou com alguns especialistas e reuniu uma lista com dicas de recursos digitais que podem auxiliar os educadores.
Segundo o geógrafo Wagner Costa Ribeiro, da Universidade de São Paulo, a escola precisa mudar a forma como trata sobre os recursos hídricos nacionais. “A criança e o adolescente não podem ter o mito da abundância da água reforçado.” Para ele, o Brasil tem um nível bastante elevado, mas essa água está distribuída de maneira desigual. “Ela é abundante na escala nacional, mas é muito escassa em locais como a região metropolitana de São Paulo”, apontou Wagner.
O especialista acredita que a crise vivida na cidade representa um problema de gestão, já que nos últimos anos não foram adotadas medidas voltadas para a ampliar os sistemas de captação, diminuir perdas durante o armazenamento e estimular reuso da água. “Infelizmente, nada disso foi realizado. Em um período mais seco, não temos ações de contingência”, afirmou.
O momento de crise, onde parte da população fica sem água nas torneiras durante horas ou até dias, pode servir para despertar a discussão sobre o uso da água. “A ideia é que o consumo consciente seja um hábito trabalhado desde a infância”, defendeu Denise Conselheiro, coordenadora do Edukatu, rede de aprendizagem sobre consumo consciente. Segundo ela, isso garante que as próximas gerações tenham essas práticas muito mais incorporadas ao seu dia a dia.
De acordo com a representante do Edukatu, para falar sobre esse tema na escola, o professor deve recorrer ao uso de atividades lúdicas e a uma linguagem divertida. “A abordagem precisa ser diferente”. Além disso, é preciso trazer as questões sobre o uso da água para o cotidiano do aluno, como o risco de desperdício dentro da própria escola.
Uma sugestão de atividade, apresentada por Wagner Costa Ribeiro, da USP, é de pedir para os alunos levarem a conta de água para escola. Na sala de aula, o professor pode comparar o consumo de cada família com a média geral da turma. A partir daí, ele consegue discutir maneiras de promover o uso racional dos recursos hídricos. No ensino médio, ele também pode acrescentar o debate sobre o modelo de gestão hídrica adotado na cidade.
A partir de buscas em sites como a Escola Digital, o Portal do Professor (MEC) e o Edukatu, o Porvir reuniu algumas dicas de recursos digitais que podem auxiliar os professores a falarem sobre o tema. Confira a lista:
Água em números
Com a linguagem de um infográfico animado, o vídeo apresenta dados da distribuição de água no planeta, consumo e desperdício em situações do dia a dia. A animação mostra que um buraco de três milímetros no encanamento, por exemplo, pode desperdiçar 3.200 litros de água por dia.
Etapa: ensino fundamental e médio
Fonte: Escola Digital
Como prevenir a seca
Produzido pela equipe do site Planeta Sustentável, o infográfico apresenta alternativas para o uso racional da água. A arte também divide o consumo de acordo com o segmento – agricultura, indústrias ou uso doméstico. Segundo os dados apresentados no infográfico, o setor agrícola é responsável por 70% do consumo global.
Etapa: ensino fundamental e médio
Fonte: Escola Digital
Quadrinhos sobre a água
A história em quadrinhos fala sobre a importância da água e como ela está distribuída no planeta. A partir dos diálogos entre os personagens, o aluno pode perceber que a água existe em abundancia no globo, mas apenas uma pequena parte dela é própria para o consumo.
Etapa: ensino fundamental
Fonte: Escola Digital
Atividades sobre o uso da água
Disponíveis para download, o conjunto de atividades reúne jogos e testes sobre o tema água. O material tenta conscientizar o aluno sobre a importância de promover o uso racional dos recursos hídricos.
Etapa: ensino fundamental
Fonte: Portal do Professor
Atividades sobre a importância da água
O recurso digital reúne materiais que falam sobre a importância da água no meio ambiente. Além disso, as atividades também tratam sobre a constituição hídrica do planeta e como ela é disponibilizada para o consumo humano.
Etapa: ensino fundamental
Fonte: Portal do Professor
Como a água chega até as nossas torneiras?
A imagem ilustra o caminho que a água percorre, desde quando é retirada da natureza, até o momento em que chega às torneiras de uma casa. Também é possível ver alguns processos de armazenamento de água nas estações de tratamento.
Etapa: ensino fundamental
Fonte: Portal do Professor
Percurso da Água no Edukatu
No Edukatu o professor conta um percurso de aprendizado inteiro dedicado ao tema água. O material está disponível em duas fases: na primeira, ele apresenta recursos digitais que ampliam o conhecimento sobre a temática de forma lúdica; na segunda parta, é apresentado para o educador a proposta de desenvolver um projeto de intervenção no ambiente escolar, podendo incluir ações de conscientização sobre o uso racional da água.
(obs: para ter acesso ao material, o professor deve realizar um cadastro no site)
Etapa: ensino fundamental e médio
Summary: Mapping first-hand experience of extreme weather conditions helps to target climate education efforts. First-hand experience of extreme weather often makes people change their minds about the realities of climate change. That’s because people are simply more aware of an extreme weather event the closer they are to its core, and the more intense the incidence is.
First-hand experience of extreme weather often makes people change their minds about the realities of climate change. That’s because people are simply more aware of an extreme weather event the closer they are to its core, and the more intense the incidence is. So says Peter Howe of Utah State University in the US, who led a study in Springer’s journal Climatic Change Letters about people’s ability to accurately recall living through extreme weather events. It also focused on how people’s proximity to such events — the so-called “shadow of experience” — aids their awareness of climatic episodes.
Howe’s team mapped data on people’s extreme weather perceptions from a national survey of 1,008 US adults conducted by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication and George Mason Center for Climate Change Communication. The data were then overlaid on other maps of actual recorded events such as droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes.
They found that the public tends to accurately recall and report on extreme weather conditions. This is particularly true for hurricanes and tornadoes that cause large-scale destruction and personal suffering as well as events that attract media coverage. Drought, on the other hand, is much more difficult to perceive because it happens slowly over a longer period of time. It also generally affects a larger area of land. Actually, most people only believe that they have experienced a drought after 25 weeks of persistently dry conditions.
The closer people were to a weather event, the more intense and destructive it was and the longer it lasted, the better are the chances that people will note it. Howe says the proximity effect may be explained by an increased likelihood of personally suffering harm or property damage as one approaches the site of the event, as well as environmental cues (such as dark clouds or high winds) and social cues (such as tornado sirens or warnings).
“The shadow of experience — or the area within which people are more likely to report that they have experienced extreme events — increases as the magnitude of an event increases,” explains Howe. “Indirect damage through disruption of services, utilities, businesses, social networks, and local economies are one likely cause for the tendency of people to report personally experiencing events even if they live many kilometers away and did not suffer direct personal damage.”
Howe and his team believe that maps showing the shadows of experience of extreme weather could be used to focus disaster preparedness and climate education efforts after an event. They advise weathercasters to provide more climate change context when extreme weather events happen, and to educate their viewers about the climatic reasons behind them. In the case of droughts, the public should be helped to recognize the phenomenon as it is happening and to take specific steps to deal with it.
Peter D. Howe, Hilary Boudet, Anthony Leiserowitz, Edward W. Maibach. Mapping the shadow of experience of extreme weather events. Climatic Change, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s10584-014-1253-6
Summary: You do math in your head most of the time, but you can also teach your body how to do it. Researchers investigated how our brain processes and understands numbers and number size. They show that movements and sensory perception help us understand numbers.
In this example the physically largest number (2) is the smallest in terms of meaning. It was harder for test subjects to identify a 2 as the physically largest number then it was for them to identify a 9 as the largest number. Credit: Image courtesy of Radboud University
You do math in your head most of the time, but you can also teach your body how to do it. Florian Krause investigated how our brain processes and understands numbers and number size. He shows that movements and sensory perception help us understand numbers. Krause defends his thesis on October 10 at Radboud University.
When learning to do math, it helps to see that two marbles take up less space than twenty. Or to feel that a bag with ten apples weighs more than a bag with just one. During his PhD at Radboud University’s Donders Institute, Krause investigated which brain areas represent size and how these areas work together. He concludes that number size is associated with sizes experienced by our body.
Physically perceived size
Krause asked tests subjects to find the physically largest number in an image with eighteen numbers. Sometimes this number was also the largest in terms of meaning, but sometimes it wasn’t. Subjects found the largest number faster when it was also the largest in terms of meaning. ‘This shows how sensory information about small and large is associated with our understanding of numbers’, Krause says. ‘Combining this knowledge about size makes our processing of numbers more effective.’
More fruit, more force
Even very young children have a sensory understanding of size. In a computer game, Krause asked them to lift up a platform carrying a few or many pieces of fruit by pressing a button. Although the amount of force applied to the button did not matter — simply pressing it was adequate — children pushed harder when there was a lot of fruit on the platform and less hard when there was little fruit on the platform.
Applications in education
Krause believes his results can provide applications in math education. ‘If numerical size and other body-related size information are indeed represented together in the brain, strengthening this link during education might be beneficial. For instance by using a ‘rekenstok’ which makes you experience how long a meter or ten centimeter is when holding it with both hands. This general idea can be extended to other experiencable magnitudes besides spatial length, by developing tools which make you see an amount of light or hear an amount of sound that correlates with the number size in a calculation.’
Three years ago, an adult chimpanzee called Nick dipped a piece of moss into a watering hole in Uganda’s Budongo Forest. Watched by a female, Nambi, he lifted the moss to his mouth and squeezed the water out. Nambi copied him and, over the next six days, moss sponging began to spread through the community. A chimp trend was born.
Until that day in November 2011, chimps had only been seen to copy actions in controlled experiments, and social learning had never been directly observed in the wild.
To prove that Nambi and the seven other chimps who started using moss sponges didn’t just come up with the idea independently, Catherine Hobaiter of the University of St Andrews, UK, and her colleagues used their own innovation: a statistical analysis of the community’s social network. They were able to track how moss-sponging spread and calculated that once a chimp had seen another use a moss sponge, it was 15 times more likely to do so itself.
A decade ago it was believed that only humans have the capacity to imitate, says Frans de Waal of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “The present study is the first on apes to show by means of networking analysis that habits travel along paths of close relationships,” he says, adding that a similar idea was shown not long ago for humpback whale hunting techniques.
Caught in the act
Copying may seem like the easiest thing to us, but not all animals are able. Chimps at the Gombe Stream reserve in Tanzania can copy each other using twigs to fish out termites, but the baboons that watch them haven’t picked up the trick. “They don’t get it,” says Andrew Whiten of the University of St Andrews.
Whiten previously listed 39 behaviours that were found only in some communities of chimps, suggesting these were picked up from other group members rather than being innate behaviours. Since then, more have been added, but they still number in the dozens, not the thousands.
Given how rarely chimps pick up trends, it’s exciting that someone was on hand to watch it happen in this latest study, says Whiten.
Ultimately, he says, our ability to both invent and copy meant our ancestors could exploit a cognitive niche. “They began hunting large game by doing it the brainy way.” Imitation, it turns out, is not just the sincerest form of flattery, it’s also a smart thing to do.