More Bad News in Education

Apparently, biology teachers are afraid to teach biology. Here’s a nice little study published in the New York Times. When teachers are afraid to tackle basic principles in their field of expertise then we have a big friggin problem on our hands.

It’s one thing that I had some run-ins with parents when I had the audacity to teach Harry Potter, The Crucible, Holes, or a few different short stories by Kelly Link or Jeff Vandermeer. Literature, by its nature, is subversive. I get that. And I was prepared for it.

But this is bigger than the bible, and it sure as hell is bigger than Darwin. This is basic information about how cells work. We can see evolution happening. Right now. Kids can do experiments on algea, mold, bacteria, yeasts, and even fruit flies. Ever heard of disease-resistant bacteria? Evolution. Ever learned about the effects of industrialization on certain breeds of Eastern moths? Evolution. Or the changing flora and fauna in response to invasive species?

Organisms change. We live in a dynamic world. To deny children access to the fundamental principals upon which life operates, perpetuates and thrives is nonsense to the point of criminality. And it’s one thing to do this because of one’s own religion. I absolutely understand the difficulty in separating the religious self from the professional self – we still have to do it, but I get it that it’s hard. But to deny children the fullness of their education because you’re afraid of religious conservatives? Because you’re afraid of controversy? Or because you’re reluctant to have to bother with unpleasantness? Sorry, but that’s cowardice.

Education is no place for cowards. We need to believe in our subject matter. We need to prepare children to know more than we ever thought possible – not give them mean skimpings and hope for the best.

To you biology teachers who are avoiding talk of evolution: Knock it off. Be brave. Be thorough. Be clear. Teach.

P.S. My kid is doing a project on the Scopes Trial for National History Day right now. Have we really made THIS LITTLE PROGRESS? C’mon, people. Let’s get to work.

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2 thoughts on “More Bad News in Education

  1. I was VERY surprised to read the statistic about Minnesota in that article. It’s unbelievable. Biology was one of my favorite subjects growing up (I had considered become a scientific illustrator for textbooks at one point) and I guess I’m pretty lucky that my teachers didn’t shy away from discussing anything in our class.

  2. As was I. Also that the highest percentage of teachers who – well, actually followed the law, as well as state standards – were not the public school teachers at all. It was the Catholic teachers.

    And it’s been very odd reading all this while simultaneously living with my sixth-grader who is buried in research for her Scopes Trial research.

    Funny ole world we live in, eh?

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