Tuesday

 

Bad Education

Today's NYTimes has an article about teachers in small towns who are afraid to teach evolution even when it is in the curriculum. They feel pressure from the principal and others, so they just don't feel it's worthwhile to cause trouble. Some teach evolution without using the word evolution, or use evolutionary principles throughout their teaching but don't have a specific unit on evolution. What the article could really have used is some numbers on how pervasive this phenomenon is. Also, while it discusses teacher's observations of the situation, it seems like it would be worthwhile to talk to people in the community in order to see if they feel they're getting an inadequate science education or if they're happy the way it is. Though I suppose students wouldn't have much basis for comparison.

Also, the last paragraph talks about how "scriptural literalists" (but doesn't name any particular group or person) are moving past challenging evolution to challenging geological claims about the age of the Earth and claims from physics about, for instance the Big Bang. The hopeful way to read this is that science classes will do more to lay out the evidence for these phenomena and teach children more about evidence based reasoning. The problem with that hopeful reading is that the evidence for the big bang requires understanding things about background levels of cosmic microwave radiation, which might be hard to teach to some high school students.
The scary way to read it is that we're rerunning the uniformitarianism versus catastrophism debate in geology, which Lyell and uniformitarianism won in the mid-1830's. So we have people who want to push science back to where it was in the early 1800's.

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