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Physicist Chad Orzel takes Cosmos remake star Tyson to task for attack on teachers

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Gosh, you’d have to be Neil deGrasse Tyson to get away with attacking teachers, one would think.

Anyway, Tyson had tweeted,

Students who earn straight “A”s in school do so not because of good Teachers but in spite of bad Teachers.

12:10 PM – 10 Jan 2015

Orzel replies, saying he didn’t mind a bunch of stuff Tyson did that annoyed people but

I have to say, though, that this one kind of crossed a line:

I mean, what the hell is that? I’ve been staring at this for a while, and really can’t find an angle from which it doesn’t look insulting to a whole bunch of people who don’t deserve your scorn. Are you trying to say that bad teachers are so common that every good student has had to work around them? That only bad teachers give A’s? That no student is so good that a good teacher would give them all A’s?

On the student side, I’m now in my 14th year of teaching college, and I’ve seen a few students come through who got all A’s in their time with us. And I have to say, every one of them deserved every A they got– they put in a huge amount of effort. So the idea that nobody could possibly deserve all A’s just doesn’t fly. I suppose all my colleagues could be “bad Teachers,” but that’s a little hard to believe.

Given your stature as a public figure, there’s a lot you could do to help education in America (beyond, you know, making Cosmos…). You could’ve used your public platform to praise some of the teachers out there doing great work finding innovative ways to teach students how to think, and lifting them up toward straight A’s– seriously, check out folks like Frank Noschese, Kelly O’Shea, and Dan Meyer, they’re awesome. You could’ve encouraged students to go into teaching– we could really use more future teachers drawn from students who have a good understanding of math and science, the very population with whom you carry the most weight– or parents to provide more time and resources for their kids’ education. You could even talk up charities like Donors Choose, which helps provide resources to teachers in needy districts.

Instead, you posted a cryptic tweet that’s really difficult to interpret in any way that’s not actively insulting to teachers. And that’s deeply disappointing, especially from someone whose reputation is built around trying to inspire and educate the next generation.

Actually, Tyson can say pretty much whatever he wants about anyone he chooses; that’s what being a science celeb means these days. Suck it up, Orzel. Dawkins is worse.

See also: You have to know the Cosmos remake is in trouble when … (Actually, Orzel had some serious misgivings about it. )

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s real classy Christmas

But what difference, at this point, does it make if Tyson fabricates quotes?

William Lane Craig on Tyson’s dismissal of philosophy

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Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

24 Replies to “Physicist Chad Orzel takes Cosmos remake star Tyson to task for attack on teachers

  1. 1
    Neil Rickert says:

    I honestly don’t see a problem in what Tyson tweeted there.

    It has a slogan-like quality, so we aren’t supposed to take it all that literally anyway.

    I suppose all my colleagues could be “bad Teachers,” but that’s a little hard to believe.

    I don’t see Tyson as suggesting anything of the kind.

    My experience as an educator is that A-students are very much self-motivated, so a good teacher doesn’t actually do much positive for them and a bad teacher doesn’t actually do much harm to them. And I take Tyson’s tweet to be saying something similar.

  2. 2
    News says:

    Neil Rickert at 1: Chad Orzel took it differently.

    You write: “My experience as an educator is that A-students are very much self-motivated, so a good teacher doesn’t actually do much positive for them and a bad teacher doesn’t actually do much harm to them.”

    Isn’t THAT convenient.

    It certainly has not been my experience as a student.

    But as I said, a science celeb can dump on anyone he pleases, and all kinds of people will say anything to defend him.

  3. 3
    humbled says:

    The question that keeps coming to my mind is… Who gives a damn what Tyson thinks anyway? He’s just another science terrorist.

  4. 4
    ppolish says:

    Maybe fewer teachers than Neil hoped for are using the Cosmos remake in their classrooms? That there would make them bad teachers in Neil’s world.

  5. 5
    Mapou says:

    Like so many atheist geeks, Tyson is probably suffering from some kind of neurological disorder. He may be bipolar or has Asperger’s syndrome, or something similar. Two of the symptoms are a superiority complex and extreme narcissism. They love starting little fires here and there to see how others react. So don’t get too worked up over what they say. One day, Tyson will end up saying something so outrageously stupid and offensive, he’ll have to disappear into the woodwork to avoid embarrassing the priesthood.

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    This orzel sounds like a boss telling people what they can say.
    I find nothing wrong with tyson’s comment.Cosmos was a terrible moral blunder with its anti-Christian anti creationist stance. Tyson says nasty things about creationism but so what. They all do.

    It is the kids who get the a’s and not the teachers credit. not their discredit either for not getting a’s.
    Success in schooling is largely a result of identity. Things, almost, beyond free will. like in ones language one learns. nOt actually innate but almost beyond freewill for us all.
    Its a rare person to break out of their curve they grow up in in North America.
    teachers can bump our cirves in special cases.
    however largely the teacher is irrelevant.
    You can measure it.

  7. 7
    wallstreeter43 says:

    Robert , when I was 11 I was actually failing the 6th grade and it wasn’t because I wasn’t trying but because I learned things differently then others.
    I was very fortunate to have a great teacher that thought outside of the box and taught me ways to learn and memorize that were totally abnormal to others . It changed everything . At the end of that year I was tested as having acillege comprehension level, high school math level and al sit every other area as being high school and above . I was picked to read the graduation speech for my school. What tyson says is a bunch of BS.

    Anyone remember poor jessie Kilgore who was influenced and bullied big time by his biology teacher (who was an atheist ) to read an atheistically biased book on evolution and God by Dawkins and ended up committing suicide because of it ?

    How can anyone say that teachers don’t make a difference. They are in a position of big time influence and what they say can have a huge impact on a students mind.

    Why do you think Darwinists want to keep hold of their power position so badly ?

  8. 8
    wallstreeter43 says:

    Mapou , tyson doesn’t have a mental disorder. He is a mental disorder lol

  9. 9
    Mark Frank says:

    I agree it is a rather silly Tweet. I can’t see why it is relevant that he is a scientist and atheist. I have no doubt that deeply religious figures have made equally silly casual comments about education.

  10. 10
    Joe says:

    Students who earn straight “A”s in school do so not because of good Teachers but in spite of bad Teachers.

    If the teachers are “bad” then how was it determined that those students earned those A’s?

  11. 11
    Joe says:

    My experience as an educator is that A-students are very much self-motivated, so a good teacher doesn’t actually do much positive for them and a bad teacher doesn’t actually do much harm to them.

    Bad teachers can take the motivation out of good students.

  12. 12
    DNA_Jock says:

    News comments:
    Neil Rickert at 1: Chad Orzel took it differently.

    But as Neil Rickert explained, Orzel is obviously mis-interpreting Tyson.
    Even in a good school system, not ALL teachers are good (ask a department head). Thus ALL students will be exposed to some iffy teachers — maybe one a year, maybe fewer in a really good school. Any student who gets straight A’s (i.e. ALL A’s, year after year) is therefore doing so despite the occasional poor teacher. What good teachers do for these straight A students is make classes more enjoyable. Which is very important, I assure you. It helps maintain their incredible self-motivation.

    How on earth does Orzel get from Tyson’s tweet to

    So the idea that nobody could possibly deserve all A’s just doesn’t fly.

    Huh ???

  13. 13
    Joe says:

    Any student who gets straight A’s (i.e. ALL A’s, year after year) is therefore doing so despite the occasional poor teacher.

    That doesn’t follow. It could be that the poor teachers are just giving the students A’s.

  14. 14
    DNA_Jock says:

    They’ll be grading on a curve, Joe.

  15. 15
    Axel says:

    This saying of G K Chesterton sure nails the atheist science-celeb:

    “Progress is Providence without God. That is, it is a theory that everything has always perpetually gone right by accident. It is a sort of atheistic optimism, based on an everlasting coincidence far more miraculous than a miracle.”

    How could any such celeb have any rational thoughts of even average merit to contribute ?

    Go back to sleep, Neil, there’s a good chap. You, too, William Nye of the same secular parish.

  16. 16
    Me_Think says:

    Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym – Woody Allen

  17. 17
    DNA_Jock says:

    No, Me_Think. According to my then-landlady (who taught emotionally maladjusted kids)

    “Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach teachers.”

    I think every school teacher has a teacher-training horror story.

    P.S. We sincerely apologize to all teacher-trainers who are offended by that thoughtless comment about the teacher-trainers. We respect the noble teacher-trainers, and it is not our intention to slight these…

  18. 18
    Axel says:

    Your #16, Me_Thinks. An absolute classic! Even by Woody Allen’s standards.

  19. 19
    cantor says:

    Tyson displayed astonishingly poor judgement posting that tweet. It certainly gives a glimpse into who he is.

  20. 20
    ppolish says:

    Neil is including his own teachers I would have to imagine? Maybe not, and he has thanked a teacher or two or three that he studied under I don’t know. Maybe he is still mad over that B he got. Let it go Neil.

  21. 21
    Mapou says:

    cantor:

    Tyson displayed astonishingly poor judgement posting that tweet. It certainly gives a glimpse into who he is.

    I’m sure it’s a habit with him. And there can be no doubt that, like some other people we know, Tyson is a fervent believer in abiogenesis, infinite sets that are bigger than other infinite sets, FTL travel and other magical poofery. Just saying.

  22. 22
    ppolish says:

    Btw, this is not the first time Tyson tweeted this. He made the very same tweet at least once before (months ago). If memory serves, he tweeted it additionally before then also. He has a grudge.

    OT, is BA77 on vacation? Have not read from him lately:(

  23. 23
    Cross says:

    “Humans aren’t as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth. So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were ‘reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.”
    Neil deGrasse Tyson

    That would be A,A,A,F Neil. Please try harder.

  24. 24
    Robert Byers says:

    wallstreeter43
    if you were different then you were different. A special case.
    however , i insist, teachers don’t matter in the curve of student accomplishment anytime.
    the upper class kids will not be hurt by bad teacher(s) and the lower class kids by good teacher(s).
    Its just not true that kids are influenced intellectually by a few teachers.
    IF so then one good teacher bringing change would mean ALL the rest were irrelevant. This making my point.
    OR one bad teacher being a influence would nullify all the the good teachers.
    How does this work?
    Nope. You can predict grade oners results in grade 12 by identity. In any category.
    Indeed for you the greater point was probably memorization concepts and congradualtions on how it changed your results.
    Yet you are within the spectrum of a curve.

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