Saturday, November 10, 2007


How Not to Teach the Controversy

The State of Florida is in the process of instituting some of the best school science standards in the nation. Among other things, if the proposals are adopted evolution would be clearly identified as one of the "big ideas" in science that should be taught in depth. This would be amazing in no small part because the old standards being replaced did not even mention "evolution."

But the old ways won't go quietly. At the first public forum on the new standards, as reported by Mark Hohmeister of the Tallahassee Democrat, the director of curriculum, Beth Mims, and school board member, Greg Thomas, from Wakulla County south of Tallahassee, appeared.

Mims - of course, not speaking for the board - said adding specific requirements would take "flexibility" from the teachers. (Flexibility to do what, I wondered; to teach religion?) "There's no mention of controversy," she said. "(Evolution) appears to be a universally accepted fact."

Thomas warned that all of the hard work that went into the standards would be lost in the battle over evolution. "I don't know that the benefit is there," he said, making sure to add at the end that, when he learned about it, "it was Darwin's theory of evolution."
Those were the people under some pressure to be "neutral." Others were not under any constraints:

One parent wondered why schools can't consider "an intelligent influence," branded evolution "a tool of atheists" and spoke of the "assumption of billions of years of history." Uh-oh, I thought, we've got a young-Earth creationist here who thinks the world is just 6,000 years old.

A grandmother who had five kids go through public schools said she didn't see evolution in the similarities of life forms. (Just as Picasso paintings are recognized as being from the same artist, so are worms and humans perhaps?) She hinted at "something that I call the creator" before finally surrendering and calling it "our heavenly father." ...

[A]nother parent warned against teaching a subject when "there is theory involved." "You have disagreement among the scientists," he said. "Where there is sufficient controversy, it ought to be left out." Teach it in college, instead, he suggested.
We haven't seen that final one before, I think. I guess we can call it the "don't teach the controversy" ploy.

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