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November 19, 2004

Anecdotes from today's schools

I've recently heard some disturbing stories about what's happening in public schools today. First, on a recent Monday morning in a public school kindergarten in the Midwest, the teacher asked her class of eager pupils, “How many of you went to church yesterday? Raise your hands.” All but one child raised his hand. To make matters worse, the teacher then said, “How many of you did not go to church yesterday? Raise your hands.” And of course, the same child sat alone in the room with his hand raised. I have no idea why the teacher was asking these questions, but it seems obvious that even if she had some pedagogical reason for talking about church attendance in her kindergarten class, she used the opportunity to strongly suggest that there was something not normal or even “bad” about people who don't go to church. Hello? This is a public school! Second, in an East Coast middle school, parents recently attended a “parents' night” to hear from the teachers what was going on at the school. There, the parents learned that the school has an official policy that teachers will never use the word “evolution” because it is too controversial; they also teach the principles of evolution as a “theory” among others. Teaching evolution as a theory is fine; that's what it is. It happens to have lots of support, but ok, we can't be “certain.” (of course, by the same logic we really can't be “certain” that we actually exist; our existence is a theory supported by lots of facts and information, but hey, we could be brains in a vat.) The point here is that this is a public middle school. I think the average 11-14 year-old can handle the massive controversy surrounding the word “evolution.” No wonder our nation seems stupid; we're teaching our kids to be that way.

Posted November 19, 2004 08:32 AM | general politics

you got a link on that first story? that's horrible, and something like that happened to my class in 5th grade in the midwest, except that she was singling out the lutherans from the catholics.

Posted by: beth at November 19, 2004 09:34 AM

You have no idea.
As someone who works in a public [high] school, I can tell you that it's much worse than you can perceive through any media accounts you might read. Schools are driven to be accountable through NCLB mandated testing, which requires that we teach students to regurgitate facts upon demand, which in turn drives the curriculum and you have a vicious spiral where members of society become a repository of facts, and unable to differentiate and validate information. We are slowly becoming a society where information is replacing knowledge and wisdom.

Posted by: Jonathan Link at November 19, 2004 10:37 AM

It's starting to filter up to college as well, with a growing cluster of students advocating that "intelligent design" (creationism rebundled) be taught with equal footing, time, and class-based work as evolution, since (by their take) they're both "science supported theories". Of course this totally disregards the common sense notion that a theory be given attention in porportion to the degree of evidence and wide scientific support behind it.

Posted by: John at November 19, 2004 12:37 PM

I wish schools would REALLY teach evolution. By this, I mean that what is taught at schools at all levels is often uncritical and hopelessly simplistic. When I learn, I like to hear multiple viewpoints, and the strengths and weaknesses of each school of thought. And let us be clear - I am not advocating creation science alongside evolution. I simply mean that the critical evaluation of evolution in schools that I would like to see would incorporate the diverse ideas and questions from the scientific community itself.

It is simply a fact that evolution and modern biology are inseparable. Children will be better off if they are FULLY informed of the subject. Whether evolution is true or not, it provides a framework in which scientists can work.

Furthermore, science has its limits. I am a conservative person, and I may or may not "believe" in evolution. (With that said, it is not unreasonable for one to accept evolution and a Creator). Science cannot "prove" the things that matter most in life. Disciplines such as philosophy and theology deal with those. Evolution cannot shake my faith, but any knowledge I can gain from it can enrich my life.

Posted by: JR at November 19, 2004 03:58 PM

Hmm. Maybe evolution will eventually need to be taught in classes on fiction. I just taught it, more or less, in mine...

Posted by: washburn at November 20, 2004 12:22 PM

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