Anything to avoid evolution disclaimers and "teaching the controversy"
Some students burst into tears when a high school biology told them they’d be studying evolution. Another teacher said some students repeatedly screamed “no” when he began talking about it.
Other teachers said students demanded to know whether they pray and questioned why the had to learn about evolution if it was just a theory.
About 60 public high school teachers from the Atlanta area were at Emory University last week, swapping stories about the challenges they face when teaching evolution.
They said students often walk in with grave misconceptions about the subject, and many parents fear teachers will tell kids that they can’t have their religious beliefs.
“I’ve seen churches train students to come to school with specific questions to ask to sabotage my lessons,” said Bonnie Pratt, a biology teacher at Northview High in north Fulton County. “We need parents and the community to understand why and how we teach evolution.”
The teachers were at a workshop on teaching evolution organized by Emory’s Center for Science Education. They discussed ways to teach it and how to address challenges and misconceptions. The training was part of a two-day evolution conference on campus that ended Friday.
However, only 2% of respondents in a recent national survey of science teachers said that they avoid evolution altogether.
In Edwards v. Aguillard 482 U.S. 578, 593-594 (1987) , the Supreme Court struck down the teaching of creationism but gave approval to "teaching the controversy":
We do not imply that a legislature could never require that scientific critiques of prevailing scientific theories be taught. Indeed, the Court acknowledged in Stone [Stone v. Graham] that its decision forbidding the posting of the Ten Commandments did not mean that no use could ever be made of the Ten Commandments, or that the Ten Commandments played an exclusively religious role in the history of Western Civilization. 449 U.S. at 42. In a similar way, teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done with the clear secular intent of enhancing the effectiveness of science instruction. But because the primary purpose of the Creationism Act is to endorse a particular religious doctrine, the Act furthers religion in violation of the Establishment Clause.
Teachers are protesting too much when they complain that teaching the controversy would confuse students -- if evolution theory is robust, it should not be easy to confuse students about it.
The Kitzmiller v. Dover evolution-disclaimer case is widely known but it is not widely known that two other decisions against evolution disclaimers, Selman v. Cobb County (textbook sticker) and Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish (oral disclaimer), came close to being reversed. The appeals court panel in Selman v. Cobb County indicated in an oral hearing that it was leaning towards reversal but then vacated and remanded the decision because of missing evidence, and the county school board then took a dive by settling out of court. Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish came within single votes of getting an en banc (full court) appeals court rehearing and certiorari by the Supreme Court (a grant of certiorari requires approval of four of the nine Supreme Court justices). Supreme Court denials of certiorari are normally made without comment, but in an unusual move, Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justices Thomas and Rehnquist, issued a long, detailed opinion dissenting from the denial of certiorari in Freiler. The appeals court judges who dissented from the denial of an en banc rehearing also issued a long opinion.
The National Center for Science Education is especially hypocritical -- the NCSE is opposed to evolution disclaimer statements but gives teachers advice on how to use religion to promote evolution in the classroom.
Students, parents, and others need to make more resistance to the dogmatic teaching of Darwinism -- we need classroom disruptions, demonstrations, letter-writing campaigns, etc..
Labels: Evolution education (new #4)