I won't be attending, but the odious Mr. Stein can be observed plying his trade as a social commentator at my alma mater on Thursday evening. A sparring partner of mine dropped me a line about it, and I wrote back to say I wouldn't attend, and why. Here's my reasoning:

1) From what I understand, his main topic is going to concern economic and political things, rather than 'Expelled', which was kind of a dud in the theatres. I was going to take some Bullard kids to see it, but River Park yanked it from their screens after only a one-week run so they could add more showings of 'Iron Man'. I suspect anyone hoping to hear an indepth discussion of ID's merits is going to be disappointed, and that would be the only thing I'd be remotely interested in hearing.

2) I've also agreed to help out the choir at my church's 11:00 service get ready for Holy Week, and their rehearsals are on Thursday. My church commitments take priority over my personal interests here.

3) But, to be frank, even if I didn't have other commitments and even if he was going to focus on his support for ID, I just can't see giving Stein any money. I've seen his movie, and it's just not worth making much of a fuss about. A couple of my science colleagues screened an advance publicity awhile back and I got to see it for free. Ironically, I've been offered bootleg copies of 'Expelled' more than once by people from the pews who seem unclear about the fact that they are violating the crap out of Ben Stein's money! Poor Ben: does he know that many of the churches which are the main audience for his film are peddling pirated DVD's? Maybe this falls under the category of 'no bad publicity.'

Anyway, I've seen enough of the film to know that it largely manufactures controversies where none exists. ID needs to adduce positive evidence on behalf of its proposed mechanism of design that will pass muster with the scientific community, and so far it has failed to do this. That doesn't mean that they are the victim of a conspiracy. Really, if anyone has cause to complain about a conspiracy, it should be the scientific community that was the object of Philip Johnson's secretive 'Wedge' Strategy.

There is no evidence that Sternberg or Gonzales lost any privileges to which they were entitled due to their ID sympathies. If they have such evidence, they should litigate and let the facts come out, not turn their pity parties into a sideshow serving the propaganda wing of American fundamentalism. The whole enterprise is (ahem) fundamentally dishonest, because the film isn't about science at all. It's about ideology, and one side crying 'foul!' about the tactics of the other side. And I get enough of that for free without paying fifteen bucks for it.



The Academic Decathlon year is over. I've spent a lot of time since August offering instructional support to Bullard's team. We had a decent but not great year, by all accounts, finishing third in the county and qualifying for the state tournament in Division I with a team score of over 40,000 points, which was good enough for 17th in the state.

At the competition, some of the kids medaled but overall scores were flat and we finished 23rd in Division I. Keeping in mind that's 23rd out of over 500 teams state-wide, that's not too shabby. But we have two schools in Fresno County (Edison, 1st in the county, 6th in the state; University High, 2nd in the county, 10th in the state) who have set the bar pretty high. Less than 3,000 points separated us at Regionals, but we have to do better if we want to win our Region.

Having got a taste of it, and having played College Bowl at a pretty high level for six years back in the 1980's, I'd like to see Bullard achieve those goals, but I can't say as I'd be interested in making it a more regular gig. The stipend is pitiful and the extra hours of commitment are just ridiculous. I can't help but notice that many of the more successful programs have teachers who are either retired or confirmed bachelors without family or, apparently, other interests and I'm already the most overcommited science guy I know. So it was with real mixed feelings I learned today that our team's coach, who has really done a good job of building the program, has decided to step down: it's the seemingly all-but-inevitable burnout that goes with these things.

And, I've also got to face the reality of the rest of the school year: testing, testing and more testing, starting with the CAHSEES for all sophomores. Picking up the pieces from my sub. Cramming to cover the Evolution and Ecology standards before the CST's. Seeing if we can get certain classes embedded in our Law Magnet school program, and seeing if I can get a greater percentage of my students (70 would be nice) to do enough work to actually pass their classes to avoid taking Summer School. Oh, and, get ready to teach Summer School. They should really try to pass my class now!