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Date: 20 Apr 90 06:18:56 GMT
From: agate!shelby!helens!hanauma!joe@ucbvax.Berkeley.EDU  (Joe Dellinger)
Subject: Re: [HELP] Insult

It's worse than you think. Texas passed all these "education reforms",
that required that teachers and students be TESTED to see if they were
learning the material. The tests were put together by committees "drawn
from the finest teachers in Texas". Good idea, right? American education
is in really bad shape, and these sorts of things will help, right?

My sister was an Earth Science teacher in Texas. She obtained for me a copy
of the Earth Science test that was given to HER students to see how well
they knew Earth Science.

Some of the questions:

What planet has an atmosphere similar to Earth's?
correct answer: "Venus"

The nearest galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy is located in Andromeda.
What is it called?
1) Large Magellanic Cloud
2) Proxima Centauri
3) Andromeda Galaxy
4) Great Spiral
correct answer: "Great Spiral"
(The author of the question thought "Great Spiral" was the unique proper
name, like "Milky Way". He also somehow got the idea that M31 was the
closest galaxy, even though the LMC is a lot closer.)

The nearest star to Earth besides our Sun is Proxima Centauri. How far
away is it?
1) 8.978372     Parsecs
2) 4.333333     Light Years
3) 3782.483923  Billion Miles
correct answer: 4.333333 Light Years
(Wow, I didn't know they had measured the distance so accurately!)

At what slope of the land can gullying not be contained?
1) 5 ft per 100 ft
2) 6 ft per 100 ft
3) 7 ft per 100 ft
4) 8 ft per 100 ft
correct answer: 6 ft per 100 ft
(Wow, I didn't realize it had nothing to do with soil type, climate, etc.
I guess I'd better climb half dome again before its all covered with gullies.)

Meteorologists model continents as what geometric shape?
1) Triangles
2) Squares
3) Trapezoids
correct answer: triangles
(I'm not kidding.)

Etc. About 1/4 of the questions were OK. About 1/2 of them could be
answered correctly if you had read ONLY the required textbooks. (Much
of the information in those textbooks was years out of date, or "fuzzy"
information was presented as being "hard". As a result, if you knew MORE
than what was in the textbooks, the questions became impossible to answer
"correctly"!) Stanford Earth Science professors I gave the test to _failed_!

I sent back a critique of the test to the committee that made it; I went
point by point and explained as politely as I was able WHY, for example,
it was WRONG to list Proxima Centauri's distance as 4.333333 Light Years,
just because the textbook they drew the question said it was "4 1/3 light
years away".

They wrote back, and said that they had a general policy of not accepting
input from non high-school Earth Science teachers. Since I obviously spent
so much time making my critique, they'd make a special exception for it,
but really they thought the test must have been good since the FINEST
high school Earth Science teachers in Texas had spent THOUSANDS of man hours
writing it!

So if a computer programmer can't even name the planets, it isn't necessarily
his fault. And if he can't even name the planets, what's the big deal about
some stupid robot having snapped a few pictures of Neptune? Without any
background to appreciate Voyager with, how COULD he care? (Do you care about
what values of C13 cause qSV waves in transversely isotropic media to
\    /\    /\    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\.-.-.-.-.......___________
 \  /  \  /  \  /Dept of Geophysics, Stanford University \/\/\.-.-....___
  \/    \/    \/Joe Dellinger  apple!hanauma!joe\/\.-._
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