Monday, September 27, 2010

Creationism in the classroom

Dale McGowan is a parent. When his son came home after having seen a questionable presentation in his physical science class, he eventually took action. Science, interrupted

“He did this whole thing with overheads, and a bunch of it just didn’t make any sense,” he said. “This one overhead said something like…” Connor paused to remember the wording. “‘Experiments and evidence in the present can’t tell us anything about the distant past.’”

I’m not sure how much time passed as the wind-up monkey in my head banged his little cymbals. That my son’s high school science teacher was almost directly quoting the favorite trope of young earth creationist point man Ken “Were You There?” Ham was not encouraging.

“Then he goes off on this thing about ‘If no one was there to witness something, we can only guess about it. This is a big problem for the evolutionists…’ And he goes on and on about how they’ve got all these little bits of bones but how they can never really know what they mean.”

He decides to act on this. Step 1 is an e-mail exchange with the teacher to clarify. Dear Mr. Taylor (Part 1), Dear Mr. Taylor (Part 2)

Neither of these clears up the problem, though several smoking guns are uncovered. So he takes the matter to the principal. Up the ladder.

Disinterested in creating unnecessary difficulties, and perfectly willing to create necessary ones. That’s the balance to strike.
We’re not done, but at this point I’ve already achieved most of what I set out to do. Mr. Taylor has surely been shaken out of the complacent belief that he can spin ID-inspired threads in front of a captive audience without consequence. And Mr. Weatherbee now knows who to watch and what to watch for. That’s a win.

While I wait to hear back, I’ll check in with NCSE to bring them up to date and ask a few specific questions. What should I consider an acceptable resolution in this case? What if Taylor flatly denies it to Mr. W? And is it reasonable to insist on seeing the damn overheads that were trotted out in front of my son?

And the resolution seems to have been a good one. I guess we'll know for certain if the offending course material fails to appear next year.

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