Sunday, February 03, 2008


Sounds of Science

In a story that has been echoed across the country, the St. Petersburg Times has a piece on the chilling effect creationism has on education in Florida.

Sometimes, Allyn Sue Baylor doesn't teach evolution in her science class, even though the state requires it. She knows of other teachers who duck the issue, too.

They fear a backlash.

"There are cases when parents have gotten really upset," said Baylor, who teaches at Palm Harbor Middle School in Pinellas County. "It's scary. You can lose your job."
It is even too dangerous to talk about:

[T]he St. Petersburg Times attempted to contact more than 50 science teachers in the Tampa Bay area and beyond. Most did not respond.

A science supervisor in one district suggested teachers may be gun-shy given recent headlines. A spokeswoman in another district told principals to instruct their teachers not to talk to a Times reporter.
The passage of the proposed standards may be one possible resolution of the problem:

Would the proposed standards, which include the word "evolution," make teaching the subject any easier?

On the one hand, some say, teachers would be less likely to avoid the subject because their students would be tested on it on the high-stakes Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. ...

On the other hand, if more teachers teach more evolution, classroom conflicts might increase.

"Eventually, you'd see less (conflict)," said Jason Wiles, who manages the Evolution Education Research Center at McGill University in Montreal, "The more students understand about evolution, the less likely they are to reflexively reject the scientific evidence."
But David Campbell, a Clay County teacher, who is a member of the committee that helped write the draft science standards and who opposed his home county school board's anti-evolution resolution notes that the teachers who skip evolution do so out of fear. And they have an unwitting ally:

They get away with it because "virtually no one complains when a teacher does not teach evolution," said Randy Moore, a University of Minnesota professor who has edited several science education journals. "There is not an outcry for, 'Teach us evolution.'"
So it you really care about science education, find out what your local schools are teaching -- really teaching -- and if they don't measure up, make as much noise as the anti-science crowd does.

Hi John,

that's really scary. Ok, it's the Bible Belt, but still *scary*.
What a pyrrhic victory...

Is that new or is that behavior something which was already known ?

I do not know if you know it yet,
but the Wilfried Laurier University
in *Canada*....look for yourself
Is that new or is that behavior something which was already known ?

It's been known for some time. There were the surveys mentioned in the article:

A 1999 survey of biology teachers in Oklahoma, for example, found that 12 percent wanted to omit evolution and teach creationism instead. A similar survey in Louisiana found that 29 percent of biology teachers believed creationism should be taught, while in South Dakota, it was 39 percent.

As an interesting aside, Don Aguillard, the student who was one of the plaintiffs in the Edwards v. Aguillard case, was coauthor of the Louisina survey.

In many ways, the brief period between Sputnik, when science became an anti-communist imperative, and the re-animation of the religious right in the 80s was the anomally. After the Scopes trial evolution was removed from most grade and high school textbooks as too controversial.

There is more information on this problem at the NCSE site.

And I did see Larry's post on Wilfried Laurier. I think that may be the result, at least in part, of Canada's "hate speech" laws. But the trend towards greater religiosity and more deference to it is not totally unique to the US.
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