Wednesday, October 12, 2005

It?s all relative

I spoke with my contact at the Department of Education over the weekend soon after the Sooner rout. To be fair, I called him up only to brag about the victory. Wilbur had graduated from OU with a degree in Physics a couple of years back and is now a minor underling of some sort at Secretary Margaret Spellings' office, so when he seemed incoherent over the line, I naturally put it down to denial.

I said "Will, you're in denial. You've been conditioned to victory and now you can't admit it".

He came back with the too busy at work to care response that I have now come to expect from those of my pals who are in banking or in consulting, but certainly not from a beltway burgher. Infact he even ran a small book last Fall so when he acted too busy, I knew something was serious. I turns out that he had been cooped up in his office ever since Secretary Spellings spoke at the National Press Club a couple of weeks back and was still working late nights at his computer.

During the Q&A session after her Back to School speech, Secretary Spellings said that the decision of whether Intelligent Design should be taught in schools should be left to local authorities ...the decision of whether Intelligent Design should be taught in schools should be left to local authorities...implying that science, after all depended on who wanted to learn it and which school-district you went to.

"So Willie-boy, You are now overrun by requests from parents in little independent school districts from Alabama lobbying for the inclusion of Creationism in the chapter on Evolution," I guessed. I was about to foam some more at the mouth about how exactly I thought Creationism was right as an allegory but was wrong as a topic for Science in school whenWillie cut me down quick with this: "Nope, most of my current requests come from physicists in Brookhaven."

Parents for Relativistic Origins of Mechanics (PROM) is this small education-reform organization started mostly by a few labcoats at Brookhaven and the local trouble-mongers and layabouts like radical temp science teachers at local high schools, graphing calculator salesmen and the local pocket-protector league that wants to bring Einstein back in high school Physics texts.After Secy. Spelling's statement at the NPC, these guys mailed Secretary Spellings' office requesting that General Relativity be taught in high-school. Sticking to her word, Secretary Spellings had promised that she would look into ways of incorporating New Physics in the school curriculum. Since Wilbur was the only Physics major in that office, she had someone call him up and task him with reading 'A First Course in General Relativity' by Schulz and formulating concrete plans on how to teach that stuff to high-schoolers, and possibly even middle-schoolers.

I talked to PROM after my call with Will. Dr.Ockham, who is the current PR person at PROM, and a post-doc at SUNY, did not mince his words, "Teaching Newtonian Mechanics to high-school kids is only half the truth. You might not know that,""Teaching Newtonian Mechanics to high-school kids is only half the truth. You might not know that,"... he said peering over his half-rim glasses smugly, "but Newtonian mechanics does not explain light or even gravitation. Kids are being misled daily when they are forced to learn the half-true Laws of Newton. We are kidding ourselves if we ignore General Relativity. I won't let my twelve year old be misled. And I cannot have the mal-education of her classmates on my conscience."

However, all parents are not willing to buy into this rather radical stance. Visiting Caltech string-theorist V.J. Subramanian, whose son Neil is a classmate of Dr. Ockham's daughter Eva was of the opinion that the time was not yet ripe for General Relativity (GR) to be taught in schools. He said he did not mind Newtonian mechanics being taught, but holds that teachers have the moral responsibilty to tell students that Newtonian mechanics does not explain everthing. And he woud like mention to be made of Special Relativity (SR) and General Relativity in the classroom.

Bloggers all over New England and California are blogging at length about the rights of PROM and how it is fighting the good fight against non-absolute truths and half-baked science. A blogger at Eindhoven had set up this site called and from what the message-board indicates, America is ready for the GR (or atleast SR) to be taught in schools.

Will has since reclaimed his faith and removed the Darwinfish sticker from the back of his minivan. He asked to be moved to the Faith based education wing and is now framing sample faith-affirming quizzes for Kansas high schools like these -- Q: Why does an apple drop to the ground? A. Because God wants it to. Q: Why do we see lightning before thunder? A: Because God turns the light switch on first, and then the Heavy Metal.

His soial life has never been better -- he has more time on his hands and gets to meet cuter gals at the local Mormon Church.