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经济学人:自然科学教育——猴子歌舞伎

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DOES a bill that does nothing actually do something? This is not a Zen koan, but a legislative one, being tested this month in Tennessee. The bill in question required the state’s education system to encourage students to “explore scientific questions” and “respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about scientific subjects”. It also protected teachers against punishment for “helping students understand, analyse, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories.” It passed with big majorities in both chambers, and became law on April 10th when Bill Haslam, Tennessee’s governor, declined to veto it.

一个没有具体措施的法案果真能“无为而治”吗?这个本月在田纳西州试行的法案可不是禅宗的公案,而是确实具有法律效力的。上述法案要求田纳西州的教育制度鼓励学生“探讨科学问题”并“包容、尊重关于科学问题的不同见解”。根据法案,教师还能“帮助学生以客观的方式理解、分析、评论及考察现存科学理论中的优缺点”而不受处罚。法案在参众两院以多数票获得通过,4月10日,田纳西州州长比尔-哈斯拉姆(Bill Haslam)拒绝对法案进行否决,于是该法案在当日正式生效。
At issue is whether this innocuous-sounding measure is actually a back door that would allow teachers to introduce creationism and intelligent design into science classrooms. Many are sure it is. The measure drew opposition from scientists and teachers both nationally and in Tennessee. Several Tennessee-based members of the National Academy of Sciences worry that the bill would weaken science education in the state. Around 3,200 Tennesseans signed a petition urging Mr Haslam to veto the bill. And the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) believes the measure “undermines science education in Tennessee public schools”.
目前有争议的是,这份听似无伤大雅法案是否真的为教师在讲授科学课程时向学生灌输创世说和智慧设计论开了后门。很多人认为确实如此。这份法案遭到了田纳西州及全国各地的科学家和教师的反对。美国国家科学院中几位来自田纳西州的成员担心法案会降低美国科学教育的质量。田纳西州约有3200个人签署了一份请愿书,力劝比尔-哈斯拉姆否决该法案。美国公民自由联盟则认为,该法案“破坏了田纳西州公立学校的科学教育”。
Supporters of the measure, such as state Senator Bo Watson, a co-sponsor, say this is alarmist poppycock. Evolution is part of Tennessee’s science curriculum, which the bill does not change. Many state and federal court cases have not only prohibited the teaching of creationism and intelligent design in public-school classrooms, but have also restrained teachers from introducing arguments against evolution in contravention of a school district’s curriculum. The original version of the bill warned that “the teaching of some scientific subjects” including “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and human cloning, can cause controversy”; Mr Watson cut that language out. He insists the bill is simply meant to ensure that pupils learn “critical thinking” in science classrooms.
如法案联合倡议人、州参议员波-华森(Bo Watson)等法案支持者说那些都是危言耸听的废话。进化论是田纳西州科学课程的一部分,该法案并没有改变这点。之前许多州法庭和联邦法庭的判例不但禁止在公立学校中讲授创世说和智慧设计论,还不允许教师违反学区课程规定讲述任何反对进化论的观点。法案中原来有句话提醒人们注意:“讲授包括生物进化论、生命的化学起源、全球变暖及人类克隆在内的一些科学题材会引起争议”;波-华森将这一句删去了。他坚称该法案仅仅是旨在确保学生们在科学课堂上学会“批判地思考”。
Josh Rosenau, of the National Centre for Science Education (NCSE), asks why the bill singles out science classrooms as a place where pupils should be urged to think critically. After all, some people believe the 1969 moon landing was faked or that the Holocaust is a hoax; why not require history teachers to inform pupils of both sides of those issues, too?
国家科学教育中心的乔希-罗西诺(Josh Rosenau)质问道,为何法案规定只应在科学课堂上鼓励学生批判思考。要知道,有人可认为1969年人类登陆月球是假的,还有纳粹大屠杀就是个骗局;何不要求历史老师也告诉学生关于那些事件的两种观点?
Tennessee’s bill is not unusual: since 2004 similar measures have been offered in no fewer than 13 state legislatures. Only in one other state has one become law. Many such bills, including Tennessee’s, share a common parent: a “Model Academic Freedom Statute on Evolution” written and posted by the Discovery Institute, a conservative think-tank that has long advocated intelligent design. This measure protects teachers’ and students’ rights to present and hear “the full range of scientific views regarding biological and chemical evolution,” but it does little in practice. It changes no curriculum and does not expressly lobby for creationism or intelligent design. Louisiana’s measure, which has been law for nearly four years, seems to have had no discernible effects. Instead, these bills seem a particularly successful bit of signalling. They let evolution sceptics express themselves in the right place: within the law and outside the classroom.
田纳西州的这个法案并不罕见:自2004年起,至少13个州中有人向立法机构提出类似的法案,除田纳西州外只有1个州的法案正式生效。这些法案中的大部分,包括田纳西州的,都有一个共同起源:由探索研究所撰写并发布的《关于进化论的学术自由法规范》。探索研究所这个立场保守的智囊长久以来都是宣扬智慧设计论的。这个法规保护了老师和学生提出、倾听“关于生物和化学进化论的所有科学观点”的权利,但并没怎么落实。法规并没有改变学校的课程,也没有明确地为创世说或智慧设计论进行游说。路易斯安娜州的法案生效已将近4年,却似乎没什么明显效果。相反,这些法案看来在传达信息方面尤有成效,它们让进化论怀疑者在恰当的场所表达了自己意见。所谓恰当,即法律之内,课堂之外。

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global ['gləubəl]

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adj. 全球性的,全世界的,球状的,全局的

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controversy ['kɔntrəvə:si]

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n. (公开的)争论,争议

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curriculum [kə'rikjuləm]

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n. 课程,全部课程
curricula(复数

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unusual [ʌn'ju:ʒuəl]

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adj. 不平常的,异常的

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critique [kri'ti:k]

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n. 批评,批评法,评论

 
petition [pi'tiʃən]

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n. 祈求,请愿书,诉状
vi. 请愿,祈求<

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restrained [ri'streind]

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adj. 克制的,受限制的;拘谨的 v. 抑制;约束(r

 
critical ['kritikəl]

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adj. 批评的,决定性的,危险的,挑剔的
a

 
senator ['senətə]

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n. 参议员

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expressly [iks'presli]

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adv. 明白地,清楚地,特别地 adv. 特意地,专程

 


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