I remember those early cable TV days.

Came across this meme on Facebook today and it made me a little ranty. It’s one of the big reasons I ended up cutting the cord years ago and switching to streaming only. It’s largely accurate except for Bravo.

Image may contain: text that says 'TV CHANNELS: THEN & NOW WHAT IT SHOWED THEN MTV Music videos WHAT IT SHOWS NOW TLC Trash reality shows that feature young, attractive people Medical shows and documentaries ANIMAL PLANET Trash reality shows that feature oddballs and grossouts Wildlife documentaries A&E Trash reality shows that feature doggies and kitties Historical biographies HISTORY Trash reality shows that feature murders and ghosts History documentaries BRAVO Trash reality shows that feature pawn shops Makeovers and weddings DISCOVERY Trash reality shows that feature gold diggers Nature programming WEATHER Weather Trash reality shows that feature gold-diggers Weather @MATTSURELEE'

I was a teenager in the 1980s when Cable TV started showing up everywhere. I can recall clearly hearing the news that it was coming to my hometown of Pontiac, MI and how excited everyone was for it. I can also remember the launch of several of these channels.

MTV was a channel I spent a lot of time on and is the major reason I can recognize musical groups from that era when I see pictures of them. Hours were spent watching videos and when we moved out to Orion Township in 1984, which didn’t have cable TV yet, my mother felt so bad that she bought a couple of MTV compilation VHS tapes to make up for it. I think I still have them around here someplace.

Some folks know that TLC stood for The Learning Channel and started off with a lot of educational programming and documentaries, but what a lot of them don’t know is that it’s one of the oldest cable channels. Founded in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as the Appalachian Community Service Network its focus was on education through TV and was distributed for free by NASA satellite. It was privatized in 1980 and became The Learning Channel and its main competitor was The Discovery Channel, which aired similar content. TLC was considered the better channel for shows about nature, science, history, current events, medicine, technology, cooking, and home improvement. So, of course, the folks behind The Discovery Channel ended up eventually buying them out and then slowly moved the content to the trash that it is today for the sake of ratings. Then in 2006 to 2008 they tried to shift their focus back to actual educational programming even using “The Learning Channel” in some promotions. That didn’t last long at all.

Of all the channels above, TLC is the one I’m most upset about because it in the early days I really enjoyed it. The HISTORY Channel falls into the same category. I struggled with history in school, but I enjoyed the hell out of the programming on The HISTORY Channel back when it actually had shows about history on it. Arts & Entertainment (A&E, natch) was also really good in the early days even if I didn’t watch it all that much because I have no artistic sensibility. BRAVO I didn’t watch much of because I recall it had a lot of operas and “serious theater” on it which didn’t have enough explosions to keep my ADHD addled attention. Not sure why the meme lists BRAVO as makeovers and weddings as that’s the crap it turned into before it went full reality TV programming.

The Discovery Channel was another early favorite because I was big into science stuff and so were they. My favorite program was out of Australia called “BEYOND 2000” which was all about the cool shit we’d be using in the future. I first heard about Dental Implants on that show and now they’re actually a thing here in the future. At the end of my time as a cable TV subscriber the only shows I could stand to watch on the channel was The MythBusters and occasionally How It’s Made.

The joke of the meme is the WEATHER channel, which covered the weather back then and still largely does so today, but it hasn’t escaped from the reality TV trend entirely. With shows like Fat Guys in the Woods and So You Think You Would Survive, they’ve got their toes in the water. Hell, not even the major cable news networks have managed to avoid the trend.

The promise of cable TV back in the day was that it had enough room for networks devoted to knowledge to exist alongside the standard TV fare and for a while it lived up to that promise. Alas, ratings mean money and when the first reality TV show showed you could get massive ratings for extraordinarily little expenditure the fate of these channels was sealed. Why show an informative documentary on how paper clips are made when you can air a show about the hardships of a family of little people and make four times the cash from it?

The same sort of thing happened to parts of the Internet. I first ventured onto the net before the World Wide Web was a thing, so it was a text-based experience. USENET News Groups were the main draw back then functioning much like web-based message forums of today or the Bulletin Board Systems we ran before the Internet was widely available. There were groups devoted to all sorts of topics and they put you in contact with knowledgeable people around the world. Alt.Sex was an amazing forum for getting information from experts about that topic right up until around 1996 when the boom in Internet Service Providers (ISPs) happened and suddenly the Internet became a lot more crowded. Groups like Alt.Sex went from being a place with useful info to nothing but porn ads almost overnight.

It’s almost like any form of educational thing gets ruined the minute you give it to the masses. Early cable TV was highly informative as was the early Internet. Once it reached the mass public both kinda soured. There are still areas of both that hold worthwhile content, but content aimed at the lowest common denominator reigns king and you must step around a lot of dog shit to get to it. It’s a shame. I miss those early days, but that’s probably me being a grumpy old man looking at the past through rose tinted glasses.

Hey you kids! Get the fuck offa my lawn!

Science literacy is important for more than not looking like an idiot.

A recent United Nations report warned that up to 1 million species are facing extinction thanks to the impact humans are having on the planet.

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever,” Watson says. He emphasizes that business and financial concerns are also threatened. “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide,” he says.

The report lists a number of key global threats, from humans’ use of land and sea resources to challenges posed by climate change, pollution and invasive species.

“Insect pollinators are unfortunately an excellent example of the problems caused by human activities,” Scott McArt,an entomology professor at Cornell University, says in a statement about the report.

“There’s actually a newly coined phrase for insect declines — the ‘windshield effect’ — owing to the fact that if you drove your car at dusk 30 years ago, you would need to clean the windshield frequently, but that’s no longer the case today,” McArt says.

1 Million Animal And Plant Species Are At Risk Of Extinction, U.N. Report Says – NPR.org


There’s a very real danger at this point that if this high number of extinctions does to come to pass that we’ll end up going down with them. So the folks at Jimmy Kimmel Live went out on the street to ask people if we should save ourselves. Specifically, they used the scientific term for humans, Homo sapiens. These are some of the replies people gave:

To be fair, these segments only ever show you the clueless replies and the sample size here is very small, but humans being classified as Homo sapiens is a basic scientific fact that we were all taught (or should have been taught) in grade school. It’s similar to how a lot of folks don’t know that Dihydrogen Monoxide (H2O) is literally water, but that one is a little easier to understand folks not knowing if they didn’t take basic chemistry — not completely understandable as I never took basic chemistry and I know it, but a little more understandable.

I’ve ranted previously about the sad state of science literacy in America and things really haven’t improved much. Periodically the folks at the Pew Research Center conduct a survey to find out what Americans know about science. Their latest was done on January 7th to the 21st, 2019 and consisted of 11 fairly basic questions:

Americans give more correct than incorrect answers to the 11 questions. The mean number of correct answers is 6.7, while the median is 7. About four-in-ten Americans (39%) get between nine and 11 correct answers, classified as having high science knowledge on the 11-item scale or index. Roughly one-third (32%) are classified as having medium science knowledge (five to eight correct answers) and about three-in-ten (29%) are in the low science knowledge group (zero to four correct answers).

The biggest factor in determining how well someone does is the level of education that have managed to acquire:

Americans with a postgraduate degree get about four more questions correct, on average, than those with a high school degree or less education (9.1 of 11 questions vs. 5 of 11). Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) Americans with a postgraduate degree are classified as high in science knowledge, answering at least nine of 11 items correctly. By contrast, about two-in-ten (19%) of those with a high school degree or less perform as well on the scale.

And on each of the 11 questions, those with a postgraduate degree are at least 27 percentage points more likely to choose the correct answer than those with a high school degree or less.

There are also large differences between different ethnic groups which you would think could be tied to the fact that minorities often don’t have the same educational opportunities are whites, but it appears that may not be the case:

Whites are more likely than Hispanics or blacks to score higher on the index. Whites get an average of 7.6 correct out of 11 questions, while Hispanics average 5.1 correct answers and blacks 3.7 correct answers.4 Roughly half of whites (48%) are classified as having high science knowledge on the scale, answering at least nine questions correctly, compared with 23% of Hispanics and 9% of blacks.

Differences by race and ethnicity on science knowledge could be tied to several factors such as educational attainment and access to science information. However, differences between the racial/ethnic groups on science knowledge hold even after controlling for education levels in a regression model.

In a society that is increasingly reliant on technology and understanding the complexity of things such as the climate it’s more important than ever that folks have at least a basic understanding of science and the methodology of the scientific method. This survey suggests we have a long way to go. It’s no wonder we’re letting the planet burn.

You can take the quiz used for this survey yourself by clicking here. My own education level isn’t fantastic; I’ve had some college but I’ve never finished a degree. Yet I managed to get all 11 questions correct which is better than 83% of the public.

There were two questions I had to stop and think about before answering (and, no, I didn’t cheat and Google the answers), but the vast majority of these questions were answerable off the top of my head. That should be true for most people.

On the bright side, at the least I don’t have to worry that I’ll end up on one of Kimmel’s idiots-who-don’t-know-basic-science videos.

This just in: American’s knowledge of science still sucks.

introspective-catYou don’t have to look very hard to see that science literacy in America is pretty dismal, but it’s still disheartening when a new survey is released showing that it’s even worse than you thought.

Quarter of Americans Convinced Sun Revolves Around Earth, Survey Finds – ABC News.

A survey of 2,200 people that was released Friday revealed some alarming truths about the state of science education across the country, with many failing to an answer even the most basic astronomy and science questions, according to a release about the survey.

Out of nine questions in the survey, participants scored an average 6.5.

Only 39 percent answered correctly with “true” when asked if “The universe began with a huge explosion,” while only 48 percent knew that “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals,” according to the statement.

It’s hard to estimate how much of this ignorance is willful because it conflicts with religious belief. It boggles the mind that in 2015 less than half of Americans understand and/or accept the theory of evolution.

Worse, most folks don’t think science is worthy of increased government spending:

Asked whether there needed to be more government funding for science, 30 percent said there should be.

These weren’t difficult questions. Anyone who made it through high school should be able to answer them without difficulty. A good part of the reason America has risen to the position its in is because of our mastery of science and the benefits that come with it.

I suppose we could chalk this up to the topics not being something that most folks deal with day to day, but they seem like the sort of thing you’d know just by paying a little attention to what’s going on around you.

PoliTech asks college students basic history questions…

… the results of which are very disheartening. Granted, this is in Texas where there’s an effort to have textbooks rewritten to push a Conservative slant on all topics, but these aren’t even politically fraught questions. These are basic facts that it’s stunning to think anyone with an IQ larger than their shoe size doesn’t know.

Check it:

headdeskBut, hey, if you want to know what show Snooki was on or who Brad Pitt is/was married to then these kids have got you covered!

To be fair, I can’t recall the last time knowing who won the civil war was critical to my day to day life and knowing that the Vice President is Joe Biden doesn’t help me fix a client’s computer any faster. In the interest of being completely honest I’ll admit that while I do know who we gained our independence from, I wasn’t entirely certain what year it was as it’s a bit of a vague question. My knee-jerk response is 1776, but that’s the year we declared independence. The war itself didn’t actually end until 1783. You could argue we didn’t actually gain it until the war ended. The really sad part is that I do know what show Snooki was on in spite of NEVER HAVING WATCHED THE FUCKING SHOW. I also know who Brad Pitt is/was married to because it’s all anyone talked about back when he dumped one to go to the other.

These people don’t strike me as stupid. They’re just ignorant about the history of their country. I suppose we could debate over how important knowledge of these questions really is, but the point is that you have to work hard at being that ignorant given these are basic facts first taught in elementary school and repeated throughout the years. Given how many times this was covered in my time in public schools I find it hard to imagine there’s any way you could finish K-12 and not know these facts by heart. OK, the Joe Biden one doesn’t really count. I can understand not knowing the dates of important historical events because I was pretty crappy at remembering dates myself, but I at least have a general idea of the time period they happened in.

Are they just not teaching these things in school anymore?

Are you more scientifically literate than the average American?

the-stupid-it-burnsThe state of science education in the United States is appalling and it’s only getting worse. Thanks to stupid policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act which places an exaggerated emphasis on testing to determine whether kids are learning anything resulting in schools “teaching to the test” and cuts to science education over the years, most people these days fall far short on basic scientific knowledge. It doesn’t help that there has been a systematic attempt by the Far Right in this country to undermine the teaching of well established scientific theories such as Evolution. Is it any wonder that the Discovery, History, and Science channels are resorting more and more to running shows like Ancient Aliens and The Supernaturalist?

It’s helpful to understand just how bad things have gotten so the folks at The Pew Research Center take the time every so often to poll Americans with a simple science quiz to see how they do. When I say simple, I mean ridiculously simple. There are 13 questions and only one of them made me pause for more than half a second to think about the answer.

You can take the quiz yourself here: Do you know more about science and technology than the average American? Go ahead and take it before proceeding with the rest of this entry. I’ll wait.

Done? OK, how’d you do? I got 13 out of 13 correct. There were several questions that I couldn’t believe they were seriously asking. Surely everyone got all of these questions correct, yes? According to the results I scored better than 93% of the Public and the same as only 7% of other quiz takers.

PewScienceQuizResults

Granted I’m probably more scientifically literate than the average person just because it’s a topic I’m interested in, but it’s not like I spend all my time studying science books nor are these questions in any way esoteric. The vast majority of them were laughably simplistic. If you’re paying attention at all you should get all 13 right.

When you get into the demographic breakdowns of the quiz it gets a little more interesting. Men did better than women on most of the questions except for those related to health. Generally speaking, the more education you have the better you’re likely to do — “collage graduate” scored better than “some college” which was better than “high school” — but it was surprising that only 20% of folks know which gas makes up the majority of the Earth’s atmosphere. That’s middle school science class for crying out loud. And the older you are the more likely you are to score low (probably because you’re beyond the point of giving a shit).

So what do we do to fix this problem? Hey, how about we get rid of that stupid No Child Left Behind program and allow teachers to, you know, teach and then properly fund education and science initiatives?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Like that has a chance in hell of happening.

Santorum is like a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream come true

Though there is a correlation between college education and liberal tendencies, but that’s only because reality has a liberal bias. Santorum wants you to stay stupid and ignorant so you’ll continue to be a good little Republican. #seb #politics #Santorum #Education

Embedded Link

Santorum: Obama Wants Kids To Go To College So Left Can Indoctrinate Them
Rick Santorum says the left uses colleges for the purpose of indoctrination.
After saying “we’ve lost, unfortunately, our entertainment industry,” Santorum told a Naples, Florida, audience that “we’ve lost our higher education, that was the first to go a long time ago.”
“It’s no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go to college,” said the former Pennsylvania senator. “The indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in …

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In Michigan, the average spending per prisoner is close to three times that spent per student.

I love my State, but damned if our priorities aren’t seriously fucked up:

via Cool Infographics.

An infographic on the State of Education in the U.S.

An illustration of the problem:

Information provided by: Online Education

Tennessee Tea Partiers want to reject history and substitute their own.*

Pic of an intelligent Tea Partier.

Do you really want this guy setting your kid's educational standards?

They say that reality has a Liberal bias which probably explains why the Far Right is always trying to change it through revisionist history. Down in Tennessee the leaders of the Tea Party met up with state legislators to present their “demands” on what the government’s priorities should be.

One of those demands was for history books to be changed to be nicer to the Founding Fathers:

Regarding education, the material they distributed said, “Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government.”

[…] The material calls for lawmakers to amend state laws governing school curriculums, and for textbook selection criteria to say that “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman during the news conference, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.

“The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody — not all equally instantly — and it was their progress that we need to look at,” said Rounds, whose website identifies him as a Vietnam War veteran of the Air Force and FedEx retiree who became a lawyer in 1995.

via Tea parties issue demands to Tennessee legislators » The Commercial Appeal.

In other words, who gives a shit what some members of the minority did in our country’s history when there’s all these rich, white men to teach kids about? And all that bad stuff they might have done? Let’s pretend it never happened and just focus on the stuff we like.

Reality doesn’t conform to their black and white view of the world so rather than adjust their views to fit the facts they’re going to adjust the facts to fit their views, and then try to force it to be taught in public schools. In their world the United States is beyond reproach as are any of the major figures of its past that they like.

Found over at Slate.com.

*With apologies to Adam Savage.

Take the Pew Research Center Science Knowledge Quiz.

From the You-Have-To-Be-Fucking-Kidding-Me department comes this Pew Research Center Science Knowledge Quiz. It’s a series of 12 questions on what can only be described as stunningly basic science knowledge. Questions such as “Which over-the-counter drug do doctors recommend that people take to help prevent heart attacks?” Stuff that all you’d have to do is pay cursory attention to the news to know as opposed to, say, actually reading a science book or watching something on the Discovery channel.

Not surprisingly, as you can see in the graphic to the left (click to embiggen), I managed to score 100% which isn’t all that surprising given my addiction to both science books and the various Discovery channel incarnations.

What is surprising is that only 10% of the public can say the same. They allow you to break it down question by question and, as it turns out, the question I listed above is the one most folks got right (91%) and the question most folks got wrong, which is amazing cause it’s a True or False question, was “Electrons are smaller than atoms.” Only 46% of people got that one right.

When you break it down by demographics it’s amazing to realize that the average number of questions answered correctly by college graduates was only 9.5. Which is amazing considering how basic these questions are. But don’t take my word for it, go take the quiz yourself.

Found via DOF.

What’s also amazing is the number of times I use the word amazing in this entry.