Archive - Feb 3, 2011

Been Dover

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Memo to a well-off partner in a law firm with a child in high school: HELP.

Goddammit, I hate when I'm wrong. I've been operating under the assumption that since the Dover decision ruled that intelligent design was creationism, and therefore you couldn't teach it in public schools, that the Young Earth Fucknut Squad had all but given up on their plans to legitimize their worldview in the public sphere. And that's essentially true. What I was wrong about was that this was a good thing.

Because according to a new study out of Penn State, the creationists have managed to accomplish with evolution what the pro-lifers have done with abortion - make it a culture war issue so controversial that only people truly dedicated to the idea will actually fight for it, with the vast majority of relevant folks just sitting on the sidelines. So on the up side, most science teachers aren't teaching that God made man 6,000 years ago. But they aren't teaching evolution either. AVOID THE CONTROVERSY.

Worst news first. Out of the nearly 1,000 biology teachers surveyed, thirteen percent of them said they presented creationism in a positive light for at least an hour of class time. That's a pretty fucking hefty percentage for something that's been ruled unconstitutional by several major court decisions. And this isn't just the three high school science teachers in Alabama skewing the results - LifeScience, reporting on the study, posted this comment from my own state of Minnesota: ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"I don't teach the theory of evolution in my life science classes, nor do I teach the Big Bang Theory in my (E)arth (S)cience classes.... We do not have time to do something that is at best poor science."

Apparently they have an entire year to do something which is at best poor science, because they've hired a poor scientist to teach their children. This is why I don't venture outside the 494/694 loop unless it's absolutely necessary. There be dragons and creationists there.

And then there's the 60% or so in the middle. Because if 13% are teaching creationism, and, according to the study, only 28% are following the national guidelines for teaching evolution, what are the rest doing? Punting so that nobody yells at them, that's what the fuck they're doing.

"Based on respondents' write-in answers, the researchers surmised that many of these cautious teachers toed the line, weakly teaching evolution without explicitly endorsing or denying creationism in order to avoid controversy and questions from both students and parents." - Jennifer Welsh, author of the LifeScience article.

Look, I get it. Your job isn't easy. You're just trying to make it through the school year. You don't want to make waves or become the center of a controversy or whatever. But teachers, and the administrations who back those teachers up, need to be reminded that we've had the fights over this, and creationism has lost every single fucking time. This shit has been as settled as it can be.

So we need another Dover. If 13% of high school science teachers are pushing creationism, then there are classes and classes full of high school students who are being taught creationism. And all those students have parents. And some of those parents have got to be lawyers, lawyers with access to some fucking resources. The kind of resources needed to start up another court fight. A court fight that brings the issue to the forefront again.

The fight gets national attention, the creationists lose (because they will always lose), and the mushy middle gets reminded once again of what their fucking job is. And their bosses are reminded that ignoring the truth because the liars are loud is not how education is supposed to work. And hell, with a Democratic president in charge, maybe we can get some of that top-down support that we didn't have access to during Dover, which fell smack in the middle of an administration that thought God told it what to do.

Thirteen percent think they can get away with teaching their students mythology, and we need to remind them that we're paying attention. Sixty percent of them think wussing out will keep them out of trouble, and we need to remind them of what their job requirements are. So let's get us a new Dover going, and let the Six-Thousand-Year-Old-Earth crowd try to defend their worldview without becoming laughingstocks yet again.