The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

How American Schools of Education Burked* Education in America’s Schools

Robert Maranto | January 11, 2024

Institutionalized experiments take a while to fail so fully as to be discredited. The 1917 Russian Revolution put its people “seventy years on the road to nowhere,” three generations of poverty, fear, and violence (as the news media, quoting protesters, declared in the regime’s last year).1 Poles who survived communism dismissed it as something that […]

Why Education Policy and Practice Have Become Research-Free Zones

Jonathan Wai | January 4, 2024

When you drive past any American school, you’ll see signs telling you to reduce your speed and declaring the area to be a “drug-free zone,” with draconian penalties for violators. While we can all agree on keeping drugs away from school children, drugs are not the only thing we keep out of schools. Unfortunately, when […]

Quantifying Privilege: What Research on Social Mobility Tells Us About Fairness in America

Robert Lynch | December 27, 2023

Is it more of a disadvantage to be born poor or Black? Is it worse to be brought up by rich parents in a poor neighborhood, or by poor parents in a rich neighborhood? The answers to these questions lie at the very core of what constitutes a fair society. So how do we know […]

A Vision for Comprehensive Educational Reform: Where Learners Control Their Own Education

Skeptic | December 20, 2023

Everyone knows the problems with American education; there is no point in rehashing them. Identifying the source of those problems, however, is essential to any meaningful reform. At every level, educational innovation is choked off by bureaucratic administrators who benefit from the current structure’s inefficiencies. Let’s be clear, there is no grand administrative conspiracy— both […]

The Kill Your Brother Game: Playful Dramas & Unintended Consequences of Censorship

Dennis Junk | December 13, 2023

In the controversies surrounding campaigns to ban books from school libraries and publishers’ new policy of removing offensive words from classic books, most commenters focus on the nature of the books’ content and whether it’s appropriate for children of a certain age. In contrast, this essay focuses on the nature of stories and how concerned parents should think about them in the context of their children’s moral and social development.

Education Matters in the Culture Wars: Can We Separate Bias From Ideology?

Carol Tavris | December 6, 2023

Instead of liberal-conservative bias in education we should think about biases and orthodoxies by topic. Each side values truth and cites facts, but only if they confirm what they already believe. Ideological and Political Bias in Psychology (edited by Frisby, Redding, O’Donohue, & Scott Lilienfeld) details the harm to psychological science, academia, and society from today’s very illiberal ‘woke’ ideology.

A Skeptical View of J. Edgar Hoover & the FBI

Michelle Ainsworth | November 29, 2023

Michelle Ainsworth reviews: G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century by Beverly Gage (2022) and The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover: How the FBI Aided and Abetted the Rise of White Christian Nationalism (2023) by Lerone A. Martin.

Bone Wars: How Activists Are Targeting Teaching

Elizabeth Weiss & James W. Springer | November 22, 2023

Disputes rage across campuses and the courts concerning the location and treatment of human remains from other times, places, and cultures. How do we balance the rights of protesting ethnic groups against the scientific need to study and teach medicine, ancestry, and evolution? Disposition needs to be based on the preponderance of evidence — scientific versus affiliation to modern-day claimants.

Roe v. Wade—One Year Later

Kevin Mccaffree | November 15, 2023

Our survey of a diverse sample of U.S. adults following the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade found both extremes — always legal or never legal – unpopular; 70% favored an intermediate position. Importantly, only 37% understood that the decision did not outlaw abortion. Those younger, less educated, more religious, and more trusting of political figures tended to be less knowledgeable.

The Real Value of Diversity

Nicolas Lynch-Pinzon | November 13, 2023

The class followed its usual script. The professor took center stage, exposing the deep racism, sexism, and homophobia of a previous generation, and like well-rehearsed actors we students assumed our roles as moral arbiters in a semester-long show trial. This was a course called “Darwin and Natural Selection” and we were intrepid voyagers on the […]

Stop Bleeding and Start Leading: Dispelling Teaching’s Greatest Myth is the First Step Towards Educational Reform

Chris Edwards, Ed.D | November 10, 2023

Concrete educational reforms cannot begin until the greatest myth in teaching is dispelled: educational reform will not be created out of sympathy for teachers. Instead, reform must be built upon new ideas presented by teachers. Teachers themselves need to stop bleeding and start leading. And the place to start is by dispelling existing myths.

The Spectres That Haunt Africa: Strange Ailment in Kenya Sets Social Media Alight

Robert E. Bartholomew | October 10, 2023

In response to recent (often ominous) reports from western Kenya regarding a bizarre condition that swept through a Christian all-girls high school, medical sociologist and journalist Robert E. Bartholomew reminds us that these types of outbreaks should be seen for what they are: collective manifestations of distress.

Fossil Fuels: The Past and the Future

Donald R. Prothero | September 15, 2023

How were coal and petroleum produced? (NOT from dinosaurs!) How much is left? Can or when will we run out? The end of “cheap oil” will happen soon but we will probably not realize it until oil-producing countries can no longer keep up with demand, no matter how high the price. If we don’t phase out fossil fuels, climate change will become even more intense and oil will get too expensive for all but the most essential uses.

Skeptic Interviews Steven Koonin

Skeptic | September 8, 2023

Skeptic: How did you get interested in energy? Koonin: I was educated in New York City public schools and grew up in a middle-class household. I went to Caltech as an undergrad, MIT for my PhD, and then returned to Caltech as faculty for 30 years. I was the Provost for the last nine. I […]

Ranking American Presidents: Does It Make Any Sense?

John D. Van Dyke | September 1, 2023

U.S. Presidents have been ranked since Schlesinger’s 1948 list in Life magazine. Others have since done likewise; Siena College Research Institute’s being the standard. Problems include: interpreting the past in terms of the present; the evolving role of the Presidency; and the unique circumstances facing each President. Rather than one overall rank, it is more accurate to score on a set of attributes, including: Experience, Integrity, Imagination, Intelligence, Risk Taking, Communication, Accomplishments, Appointments, Ability to Compromise; and Avoiding Big Mistakes.

The Case for Nuclear Power

Robert Zubrin | August 25, 2023

The world faces two energy crises: (1) too much, because we are changing the Earth’s climate and chemistry and so inviting global catastrophe; and (2) too little, because the bulk of humanity still lives in poverty, without enough for a decent standard of living. The answer to both is to go nuclear. Upon examination, the arguments made against nuclear energy, including: emissions, waste disposal, accidents, and proliferation are shown to be exaggerated, unfounded, or soluble using even currently available technology.

The Future of Energy and Our Climate: Fracking, Renewables, or Nuclear?

Marc J. Defant | August 18, 2023

The Paris Accords have been a failure in reducing global warming. Solar and wind energy have not been the panacea environmentalists promised. To avoid catastrophic economic impacts, the United States needs to keep producing oil and gas until other ways of mitigating global warming can be found. Fracking has helped turn the United States into the world’s leading oil and gas producer. But the health of future Earth relies on keeping a strong economy while we transition away from oil…

It’s Always Sunny in Space: Why Space-Based Solar Power Is a Viable Source of Energy

Rob Mahan | August 11, 2023

Advances in civilization are driven by the availability of excess energy. As the human population has exploded over the past two centuries, the global consumption of energy has also drastically expanded. But the current economic model is unsustainable without the development of a clean, unlimited source of energy. Space-based solar power (SBSP) can directly access the power of the Sun, and has the potential to be that clean, unlimited baseload power source of energy for the entire planet.

The Gift of Bias: How My Wrongful Conviction Helped Me Become a Better Thinker

Amanda Knox | August 4, 2023

After her wrongful conviction for murder in 2007, Amanda Knox was haunted by one question: why? Why did this happen? How could the pursuit of justice have gone so far off course? Corruption and evil were not satisfactory answers for her. Instead, she found understanding through the study of motivated reasoning and cognitive bias, which led her see how well-intentioned people could have arrived at such false conclusions, and how she herself could become a better thinker.

Not So Hopeful Monsters

Douglas R. Warrick | July 28, 2023

I’m a Monster Biologist. No — that’s not a self-aggrandizing professional description. I actually think about the biology of monsters. Twenty years ago, when I first conceived of Biology 485 as a rigorous treatment of “Why Things Aren’t,” I figured that it was already nearing obsolescence. Surely the speed of information through this new-fangled Internet, […]

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