Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ladies and Gents, I Give You: Republican [Junk] Science. (Or, Any Port in a Bill-Passing Storm)

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2016 at 10:00 AM

I  don't know why Republicans think it's important enough for every Arizona child to learn to write cursive that they want to put the mandate into law. The only semi-rational reason I can come up with is the nostalgic notion that everything about education was better in the good ol' days. "When I was a boy/girl, we learned to write cursive, and dagnabit, today's children can learn it too." Where will the time for all that extra penmanship instruction and practice come from? Certainly not from Teach To The Test time, which has been sacred ground since No Child Left Behind. So it'll have to come out of less essential curriculum, like, say, science, social studies, music, art, free play. Things like that.

So what do you do if you're a Republican and don't have a salable reason for a bill other than "When I was a boy/girl, we did it that way"? You make shit up. In this case, the made-up reasons revolve around what's best for kids and their grandmas.

Let's start with the "grandma" idea, which is two giant leaps beyond ridiculous.
“Are we really wanting to dumb down our students to the point where they can’t even read a card in the mail from grandma written in cursive?” asked Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa.
I love that. A curriculum without cursive is dumbed down, according to Townsend. You know who Townsend is really calling dumb? Grandma. If she wants to send cards to her grandkids and they haven't learned cursive in school, PRINT! In big block letters when they're young, then in caps and lower case when they're older. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! How hard is that? Grandma knows how to print, right?

Then there's the "science" part of the shit they're making up.
“The quality of handwriting and the quality of the written text can be detected and seen on MRI imaging,” said Rep. Brenda Barton, R-Payson.
You can tell by reading that sentence that Barton has no idea what she's talking about. The quality of the written text can be detected on an MRI? What does that mean? 

Nothing, actually. She's referencing research done by ASU professor Steve Graham on the subject of teaching writing, and she's grossly misrepresenting his results. What he said was, an MRI can tell whether someone is writing on a computer or using pen and paper because the two skills use different parts of the brain. Printing and writing cursive show up identically on MRIs.

In fact, Graham says teaching kids to write on computers is a far more valuable use of their time than teaching them cursive.
“Word processing offers so many advantages over writing by hand,” Graham said, not only because people generally can write faster at a keyboard, but there’s also immediate help with spelling, grammar and even finding synonyms for words. And there’s also the ability to share the composition with others at a distance to get feedback.

“This just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to be putting all this energy into 19th century tools,” he said.
Oh, those pointy-headed intellectuals! They always think they're smarter than Republicans who want to misuse their data and not be contradicted by, y'know, the guy who came up with the data in the first place.

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