Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Why The Evolution Battle Matters

It's a quiet but hot war. Occasionally, it will flare to the level of national attention in places like Kansas and Dover, but most of the battles are small firefights at the local level. Most of the attacks are subtle and many times personal. Despite the cries of some that it is a lesser issue in the grand scheme, creation and evolution battles occur in the country constantly. Most times, it is a local school board roiled in handwringing. But frequently, it's a single voice trying to do what is right against almost incomprehensible pressure from friends, colleagues and community.

Recently, the single voice that stood up was Lumpkin County Middle School science teacher Pat New.

On April 25, 2005, during a meeting about parent complaints with her principal, Rick Conner, she recalled: "He took a Bible off the bookshelf behind him and said, 'Patty I believe in everything in this book, do you?' I told him, 'I really feel uncomfortable about your asking that question.' He wouldn't let it go.' " The next day, she said, in the lunchroom, "he reached across the table, took my hand and said: 'I accept evolution in most things but if they ever say
God wasn't involved I couldn't accept that. I want you to say that, Pat.' "

Fortunately for Ms. New, the state of Georgia educational standards explicitly require the teaching of evolution as the unifying concept for biology. Instead of having to enter the mud wrestling minutiae of the creation / evolution debate, she was able to say I must teach the standards. She did have to file a grievance but once she did the local school officials had nowhere to turn.

She almost didn't have that opportunity. Two years ago, State School Superintendant Kathy Cox made a move to eliminate evolution as a standard. If she had been successful, not only would Ms. Pew have suffered the fate of a pariah in her community but her students would have suffered an inadequate education.

No issue in the past 20 years has crystalized the importance of local attention like the debate over the teaching of evolution. While national attention is focused on abortion, the war and flag burning, evolution opponents coordinate grass roots movements to take over local and state school boards, paste stickers in biology books and pressure individual teachers.

Educators and scientists continually fight the quiet war to preserve and improve the education of our future generations. Isn't that worth a little of our attention?

h/t on the article to Blog For Democracy

cross posted at Radical Georgia Moderate


Anonymous said...

Actually, this is Gimme. :-)

Have you read "The Great Epidemic" by John Barrie (I think)? Not only is it about the 1918 flu, but also about the history of medicine in the US. It describes how American Education, including the "study" of medicine, was steeped in the Bible, and how the medical community was transformed in the early 1900's from faith-based (i.e., bleeding) to scientific medicine. As long as you have a little more time off, you may want to read it. It is not boring at all, and several parallels can be drawn between that transformation and the creation/evolution debate.

Anonymous said...

I only subscribe to beliefs that include at least one beer volcano and one stripper factory.

Li Mortacci Tua said...

If we really came from monkeys would we like beer volcanos so much? Of course I guess it could explain the popularity of the banana daquiri....