March Mammal Madness 2017: School Science Classes Watch Their Brackets

GR:  Love it! I would choose a Wolverine for its strength, stamina, ferocity, and intelligence. Sorry losers.

“It’s a little after 8 a.m. at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., and Michelle Harris’ AP Environmental Science class is getting right to it.

“All right, you guys got your brackets out?” Harris asks.

“The class of mostly juniors and seniors ruffle through folders and pull out pieces of paper with brackets — 64 slots, four quadrants, and one central box to predict the championship. But there’s something a little different about these brackets …

“We’re going to jump down to the fourth-seeded spider monkey against the 12th-seeded antelope squirrel,” Harris says.

“Spider monkey better win!” one student shouts from the back of the class.

“This is March Mammal Madness: Round 2. It’s a competition that has been playing out online and in hundreds of classrooms over the past month. Real animals wage fictional battles, while students use science — a lot of it — to try to predict the winner.

“March Mammal Madness was created five years ago by Katie Hinde, an evolutionary biologist at Arizona State University, though now, she says, the competition depends on a whole team of volunteer scientists and conservationists: biologists, animal behaviorists, paleoanthropologists, marine biologists.” –Kat Lonsdorf (Continue: March Mammal Madness 2017: School Science Classes Watch Their Brackets : NPR Ed : NPR.)

Justice Democrats » Platform

GR:  Here’s a portion of the platform of a new political initiative, the Justice Democrats. The initiative’s goal is to find and support powerful progressives that will satisfy popular concerns to get money out of politics and pull the country back from the brink of oligarchy. The platform includes other issues such as global warming, but of course, I would like to see more about nature conservation, wildlife, and environmental quality. I also think some of the language should be more direct and binding on the group’s candidates. The Justice Democrats are calling on us to nominate candidates. You can nominate standing politicians whose record you like, or you can nominate a community member you think would do a good job.

Other groups with goals similar to the Justice Democrats may form. We certainly need something. So, let’s pay attention and help the best group win!

“It’s time to face the facts: the Democratic Party is broken and the corporate, establishment wing of the party is responsible. Republicans now hold most state legislatures, most governorships, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the presidency. So in 2018, hundreds of Justice Democrats will run a unified campaign to replace every corporate-backed member of Congress and rebuild the party from scratch. This is our plan.

“Pass a constitutional amendment to put an end to Washington corruption and bring about election reform. Super PACs should be banned, private donations to politicians and campaigns should be banned, and a clean public financing system should be implemented to end the takeover of our government by corporations and billionaires. Americans deserve free and fair elections – free from the corruption of big money donors. The Supreme Court has effectively legalized bribery. It’s time for an Article 5 convention to take our democracy back from the brink of oligarchy. Prior to passing this amendment, all members of the Justice Party should reject billionaire and corporate donations when running for office to show the American people we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk. Ranked choice voting should also be implemented to make smaller parties a viable option. All provisions of the voting rights act should be reinstated, and gerrymandering for partisan gain should be banned.

“Re-regulate Wall Street and hold white-collar criminals accountable. Despite engaging in systemic fraud and causing a subprime mortgage meltdown and the great recession, you can count the people from Wall Street who are in prison for their crimes on one hand. It’s time to prosecute the criminals, bring back Glass-Steagall, and re-regulate Wall Street to prevent another crash. Prison is not just for the poor and the middle class anymore. We will have cops on Wall Street, not just Main Street.

“It’s time for an Article 5 convention to take our Democracy back from the brink of Oligarchy.

“End billionaire and corporate tax dodging, fix the system to benefit middle-class and poor people. Corporations dodge $450 billion a year in taxes by using offshore tax havens. We should end this injustice, as well as chain the capital gains tax to the income tax, increase the estate tax, and implement the Buffet rule so that no millionaire CEO pays less in taxes than his or her secretary. It’s time for a tax system that benefits the middle-class and the poor, and makes the top 1% and multinational corporations pay their fair share.

“Defend free speech and expression. We support the right to express unpopular opinions without fear of censorship. We support free speech on college campuses. The marketplace of ideas should be embraced. A vibrant debate is healthy for democracy, and we should cherish our first amendment. We also support net neutrality for a free and open internet.

“Oppose bigotry. We must speak out against racism, sexism, xenophobia, and all forms of bigotry. Non-discrimination protections that currently apply to race, religion, and gender should be expanded to include the LGBTQ community and the atheist community. Making all Americans equal is not asking for special privileges, it’s asking for the rule of law – justice and equality for all as outlined in the United States Constitution.

“Make the minimum wage a living wage and tie it to inflation. This is about justice and basic human decency. If you work hard and you work full time you shouldn’t live in poverty.

“Ensure universal healthcare as a right. The United States should catch up to every other modern nation and implement a single-payer, medicare-for-all system. There’s no reason we can’t be #1 in the world instead of #37. It’s time to end the destruction of American healthcare by rapacious, price gouging, for-profit, private health insurance middlemen.

“Ensure universal education as a right. Educating the citizenry of a nation pays dividends in the long run, with the economy getting back much more than is initially put in. Crushing student debt for higher education would no longer burden young men and women trying to improve their lives through hard work. We should strive to have the best education system in the world. –Justice Democrats (Continue reading 10 more platform positions:  Justice Democrats » Platform.)

Educational Resources | Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative

soilHere’s some great #IYS2015 snow day activities for kids: http://t.co/d8pDqQptkA
The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative was launched in September 2011 and is open to all those interested in developing a coherent platform for promoting the translation of expert knowledge on soil biodiversity into environmental policy and sustainable land management for the protection and enhancement of ecosystem services.

Source: www.globalsoilbiodiversity.org

GR:  We must remember that without soil, the Earth would be as barren and lifeless as the moon.  Soils host at least one-fourth of Earth’s biodiversity: a tablespoon of soil holds more creatures than the whole pop. on earth http://t.co/BZGX3tsa4j.

Americans’ increasing distrust of science — and not just on climate change

By Aaron Blake.  “It’s also not just Republicans.

“Eight in 10 Americans believe science has made life better for most people, but they still don’t trust scientists — and/or aren’t aware of their consensus — on many of the most important science-related issues of the day.

“And that goes for far more than just climate change. And it includes plenty of Democrats too.

“A new Pew study comparing the attitudes of scientists and the public shows wide gaps between the two when it comes to climate, food that uses genetically modified organisms and pesticides, research using animals, and also the threat posed by the fast-growing world population.”  Source: www.washingtonpost.com

GR:  School-aged children and adults often hear conflicting views on important issues.  Young people I know often ask my opinion on interesting ideas or arguments they’ve heard.  Often, I find the arguments are obvious fallacies.  There are many ways to argue for unsound conclusions, even that science itself is faulty or dangerous.

A fallacious argument in logic or rhetoric is one that is invalid.  Wikipedia defines more than 100 fallacies that people often use to make unsound arguments.  Some of the fallacies are difficult to spot without prior knowledge.  Learning to recognize the long lists of fallacies takes time and that’s why I suggest schoolwork.

Schools should include middle-grade units and high-school courses on fallacy and debate. Otherwise, choosing what to believe is like choosing foods without taste buds.