What’s a Parent to Do When His Child’s Teacher is a Creationist?

While we’re on the topic of being outspoken, here’s an interesting story from Dale McGowan. His high-school-age son, Connor, had a bit of a disappointing start to the school year in his science class…

He had enrolled for physical science and was looking forward to it, thinking it was physics. Turns out it’s actually basic mechanics and other concepts he’s already had. But it was the teacher himself who had made the biggest impression — and not a good one.

“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.’”

“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.”

Oh boy.

Let’s say that Connor’s recollection is perfect and this happened exactly as he said it did.

If you’re a parent, what do you do? Should you stay silent? If you don’t, how do you make sure your child isn’t punished for your science-positive outlook?

Dale’s already a notable atheist, having written a few books dealing with the subject, and he doesn’t want his son to be negatively affected because of that, so he did have some hesitation about moving forward on this.

His wife Becca gave him a bit of a nudge, though.

I began to consider my options, the first of which is always “Let it go.” It’s taken me years to learn that accepting a certain base level of facepalming human malpractice is one of keys to passing my short vivre with some degree of joie. But there are also options that involve me getting out of my chair. Just a few things to weigh first.

I’m serious about not using my kids as pawns in my personal and professional quests. I would do nothing without Connor’s permission. I also have to consider the possibility that he misunderstood somehow, or that this might have been a momentary lapse in an otherwise stellar career for this teacher.

Becca and I talked it over at dinner, and she was much more decisive. “I’m sorry, that’s just crazy,” she said. “You have GOT to do something.”

Dale says he’ll keep us updated on the matter. Can’t wait to see what happens.

Any advice for how to go about this successfully?

***Update***: Dale and the teacher have shared a few emails with each other. I’m curious to see if the teacher writes back.

  • Christophe Thill

    Seeing how religious parents can raise a fuss, and be listened to, when they feel that their beliefs might be challenged in school, I don’t see why parents couldn’t complain about an incompetent teacher.

  • http://www.bigmama247.com Alise

    Forget about being an atheist parent — I’m a Christian and I wouldn’t stay silent if that were my child’s science class. My faith has nothing to do with my child receiving correct teaching in Math or English, why should it make a difference in receiving correct information in a Science class?

    (Hemant says: Alise, you’re totally right. I hope no one minds if I update the thread with references to “parents” instead of just “atheist parents”)

    I would absolutely contact the teacher first, because that’s just the right way to do it. I would personally call first, rather than email, but I would absolutely get in touch with the teacher ASAP. But honestly, I wouldn’t let much defense of that kind of “science” teaching go at all before moving to a meeting including the principal and/or superintendent. There’s simply no excuse for this kind of “education.” I’d be willing to bet that it’s WAY off of the curriculum and I would simply start and end there.

  • mkb

    The first thing that I would do is get my kid out of that class and I’d be honest with the counselor about why I needed for my kid to be reassigned. Then I would ask to have a meeting with the teacher and the head of the science department to discuss the science standards and how this lecture fits in to them.

    However, the answer to the basic question of what’s an atheist parent to do if his child’s teacher is a creationist is nothing unless the teacher’s beliefs inappropriately affect his or her performance.

  • Karen

    Ok helicopter parenting is really bad for your kids, especially boys. If the child doesn’t know by high school that he will be meeting many people of many different beliefs then he has more problems than just dealing with a Christian science teacher. The issue here is a coping one, for the student and the family, not the teacher. We meet people who have opinions that are far different from ours and we may even consider them stupider than ours, but here is the thing, the teacher is the teacher and hey, wait til you go to college and get some REAL a-holes. Live with it. Deal. What is a parent there for but to discuss these differences? If nothing else it can be a lesson at home in mythology or ancient religions. Or even tolerance.

    Why do we close these doors when there is so much to be learned from other people? Even ones we disagree with.

    Kid, learn to cope, learn to deal with things.

    As a fellow-parent that would be my advice.

  • Franco

    I’m a little taken aback that an editor and author of atheist parenting books says that when dealing with a proselytizing creationist in his son’s classroom his first choice would have been to “let it go”.

    (Hemant says: Franco, I think I understand where Dale *might* be coming from. When you basically live and breathe atheism, it’s easy to forget what the view looks like from outside that world. If I sneeze and someone says, “Bless you!” my mind would immediately ask why that person is trying to proselytize. But really, that’s usually a pretty ridiculous thing to think. If a teacher makes a reference to a god, it’s possible there’s no actual “agenda pushing” going on and we’re just thinking too much into it. So when Dale’s child’s teacher says something, it’s possible he thinks he’s just overreacting. In this case, though, he’s not, and I would think he just needed a little nudge to realize that.)

    I hope he gives better advice in his books. Props to Mrs. McGowan for having some teeth.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Beautiful parent response though on the link you sent to the emails.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    @Karen.
    This is not a coping issue.
    There is much more at stake here than a child learning to deal with life’s ups and downs on her/his own. There is the issue of legality here. Adults are better equipped to deal with problems of this scope.
    Teaching creationism in public schools is illegal, not just something annoying to be endured. The NCSE, parents and attorneys need to be involved.

  • http://theradula.blogspot.com Kate

    I’ve run into similar issues… in Middle School. The biggest problem was that the administration SUPPORTED these teachers. The same administration held Bible studies for the kids during lunch hour (attendance was optional, but kids who went to Bible Study went through the lunch line first so they could go to “club”. The other kids got what was left over)

    Sometimes you’re not pushing back against an individual teacher, but an entire school. Sometimes you’re pushing back against a local culture.

    In the mean time, it’s the kids who suffer. When my daughter wanted to start a skeptics club in response to the Bible club, she was told she needed counseling. I was called into the office almost daily, and generally harassed, and while I had the support of a few teachers I found that most of them were more interested in keeping their jobs and cheering from the sidelines than stepping up and supporting our efforts.

  • http://littlelioness.net Fiona

    Good luck with it

  • Valhar2000

    Alise wrote:

    Forget about being an atheist parent — I’m a Christian and I wouldn’t stay silent if that were my child’s science class.

    Thank you for pointing that out: it’s easy to forget in situations like these.

    I say that he should make a fuss. It is absolutely true that christian parents of the lunatic persuasion do it, and you would be hard pressed to deny that the tactic works.

  • Steve

    A good a moment as any to share this:
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/koolnewsblog/religion-is-like-a-keep-it-inside-1dgl

    I laughed very hard

  • http://www.bigmama247.com Alise

    @Karen–

    I wouldn’t consider dealing with wrong information being taught helicopter parenting. My children don’t need to “cope” with bad information. That needs to be addressed firmly and decisively. My kids may need to cope with a less than perfect classroom management plan or a teacher who just doesn’t like them or a fellow student who treats them poorly, but they absolutely do NOT have to cope with incorrect information being taught.

    My kids know that they will meet many people who believe differently than they do and that we expect our kids to treat them respectfully to the best of their abilities. However, they also know that if a teacher in the public schools starts in big time with religious teaching (and creationism is high on the list), they are to let us know immediately. Granted, there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity for that, since our oldest is only in 7th grade, but it’s certainly something that we check up with regularly.

  • littlejohn

    Godless Monster is right. Everyone seems to have overlooked that this teacher doesn’t just teach one atheist kid. He teaches scores of students of various religious backgrounds, and he is teaching them creationism. You can’t “let it go.” Would you “let it go” if you saw someone robbing a bank simply because you don’t keep money in that particular bank? Of course not. You’d call the police. The teacher should be fired. This isn’t even debatable.

  • http://www.blogspot.pinkpoppop.com Pinkpoppop

    I fully agree with Alise’s standpoint: this has very little to do with the parent being an atheist or not. This is bad teaching, plain and simple. If I (teacher) were to tell your children that the USA became independent of the UK in 1945, you would also question my ability to teach, right?

    First and foremost, get your facts straight. Ask the teacher if it is possible to come to school and ask some questions about the curriculum. Be friendly, be polite.

    If it turns out that the teacher will continue to teach his creationist agenda, discuss the possibility of allowing your child to change class.

    I would make sure that my child is no longer being taught by this person before taking further action, such as speaking with the principle. You never know if the teacher might disadvantage your child because you complain (they shouldn’t of course, but why take the risk?).

  • ihedenius

    Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. – Thomas Jefferson

    Question everything and then you can make and have nice things like cars, refrigerators, computers and Tomahawk cruise missiles. Otherwise you’ll have to settle to being a beggar.

    I have a friend — or had a friend, now dead — Abdus Salam, a very devout Muslim, who was trying to bring science into the universities in the Gulf states and he told me that he had a terrible time because, although they were very receptive to technology, they felt that science would be a corrosive to religious belief, and they were worried about it… and damn it, I think they were right. It is corrosive of religious belief, and it’s a good thing too. – Steven Weinberg

  • http://publishr.blogspot.com sovereignjohn

    Ask people if they want to go back to the days when we believed the earth was flat or that the sun & the Universe revolves around the earth. That’s creationism. Science can be wrong but it takes faith & a god concept to be proud about it!!

  • Casey

    ‘If no one was there to witness something, we can only guess about it. This is a big problem for the evolutionists…’, wouldn’t that same statement apply to creationists? There is evidence for evolution, there is none for creation. Just because we don’t yet know how something happened, doesn’t make it ok to just shrug it off and say “god did it”. It doesn’t matter how much evidence you present to religious people, they’ll go “ok, well maybe that part of the bible doesn’t fit, but what about this! See, you don’t know how that happened, so god must exist!”

  • exe

    This is an issue of the teacher not doing his job. He is supposed to be teaching SCIENCE, right? And not religion? When students complete his class, they should have an understanding of physical science. Will students from this class be equipped to go on to the next level of science?

  • Secular Stu

    You look up the laws covering wiretapping in your area, and then you record the teacher if you can. Then you get him fired.

  • Hitch

    Sadly I do not expect this to resolve on the teacher level, it’s too drastic a world-view switch. But to be seen.

    Frankly a teacher who cannot properly articulate the rules of science in a science class is not qualified to teach science.

    My solution would be to bring it to the school administration’s attention and voice the expectation that actual science be taught.

    The school can switch teachers, set expectations and so forth.

    If the school does not consider the problem, I would strongly consider switching schools.

  • Larry

    It’s not really an atheist vs. creationist issue. If the science teacher doesn’t teach scientific principles then address that.

    The teacher as an individual has a right to be a creationist but as a science teacher has the responsibility and the duty to teach science.

    Confront the teacher’s failure to teach a science curriculum.

  • James F. McGrath

    I think he first thing is to point out that this isn’t an atheist issue. I’m a Christian and I’d be every bit as angry if I learned that my child was being taught pseudoscientific garbage when they are supposed to be learning science. It is shameful, it is. Illegal, and it is a question of science education, not Atheism. PLEASE say something!

  • frank

    At the very least, the kid needs to be moved to another science class. That’s something the kid should be able to do on his own without the parents involvement. Someone should also inform the chair of the science department, the principle, the superintendent, etc. If the kid is up for it, he could pull a LaClair too, secretly record the teacher.

    Casey, the thing about not knowing what happened if no one was there to see it, as bad an argument as that is, does not apply equally to creationism. According to the creationists, there was someone there to see and tell us about the creation: god. The people who it would be a problem for are the Intelligent Design advocates, as they intentionally avoid any talk of divine revelation.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    this is why if i had kids, i’d homeschool them. because this sort of crap is way, way more common than parents these days want to admit. it’s very frustrating to me, because i don’t think a lot of parents, who got fairly good educations in the public system of their day, understand just how different it is today.

    which is mostly horrible. even in “good” suburban schools filled with upper middle class students. i have to hold myself back from ranting, so instead i’ll say this: if you have a kid in a public school, you better be very, very active in that school’s association for parents. look at the books your kid brings home, ask questions about their teachers. google is your friend, and it’s easy to find out information about the people shaping your child’s mind. i promise you a lot of what you discover won’t make you pleased.

    i’m not at all amazed this person is a “science” teacher. getting people like this in our science classrooms is part of a plan of the right that has been in motion many years. moderates and liberals need to wake up.

  • Matt

    How can you cope with it and just let it go? What kind of garbage is the child going to be taught all year long in that class? He’d probably be better off to sit at home playing video games.

    Sure, he has to learn that this sort of thing happens in real life and he’ll have to deal with teachers like that in college. However, that’s not an excuse to do nothing. If I were in college and I had a teacher like that, I’d drop the class and try to find another.

  • http://www.anthonyrmiller.com/ Tony

    I will be using this argument in the future.

    To answer your question: If my eyes told me Mary entered an apartment over and over, but the DNA indicated it was Susan, I would certainly go with the circumstantial evidence, as would the legal system.

  • Jason

    When I was a freshman in high school I was in Honors Biology. The first week we learned about Charles Darwin and evolution. But also my teacher flat out told us he goes to church everyweek but he still believes in science and evolution. He wasn’t the best teacher but that was because he didn’t explain the material well. I got the same infromation in his class then if it was fought by an atheist teacher.

  • Elisabeth

    @Alise: Well said! ^_^

    @Karen: I agree that children should learn how to handle certain situations on their own, but parents must also be there to guide them when they are uncertain or need help. Also, the scenario discussed in this post isn’t the kind of situation I would feel comfortable letting my child deal with on her own. I’m sure everyone agrees that education is important, and isn’t it our responsibility as parents to make sure our children are receiving the best education possible?

    To the parent in the original post, I would suggest going to the highest level of administration at the school, and if that fails, contact the superintendent or regional office of education, continuing on up the chain of command as needed. Make a fuss and keep it up until something is done. As another commenter pointed out, it isn’t just one child being affected in this class. I am assuming that Connor is attending a public school, which is tax-funded and therefore definitely not the place for this kind of “teaching”. Perhaps the instructor should seek employment at a private/parochial school where that kind of curriculum might be acceptable (I should point out that I went to a Catholic school myself, and though we attended church and religion class, we were also given a proper, separate education in all academic subjects as well as the arts, so not all private schools would allow such nonsense from their teachers.).

  • Jason

    Sorry I ment tought by an atheist teacher.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Good grief. Creationism being taught in schools? Really?

    Complain. Complain loudly. Threaten to take it to the school board, threaten to take it to the press. Complain and shout about it. There is no way that this kind of backward thinking crap should be taught to children. Not in the civilised world.

    If his son has made a mistake you can always apologise.

  • William

    Can you sue the school and/or teacher for malpractice? Seems to me that it should be some kind of violation to have a Science Teacher who doesn’t believe in Science.

  • http://www.givesgoodemail..com Givesgoodemail

    In this order:

    1. Talk to the teacher. Directly.
    2. Talk to the principal. Directly.
    3. Talk to the superintendent. Directly.

    (Don’t bother with the school board. Half of them are likely to be creationist wackadoodles anyway.)

    If it’s an option, consider homeschooling for the last few years of “public” education. It’s not as hard as you think, and your child will thank you for it profusely after she/he grows up.

  • Red Wood

    You have to complain to the school board immediately. What else is this clown doing?

  • Nordog

    If, as appears to be the case, this guy is teaching creationism as science then it’s simple: He’s gotta go.

    It’s the same as if someone were teaching about being a Scorpio at the Dawn of the Age of Aquarius in a astronomy class.

    You can’t allow such things.

  • Ron in Houston

    Two comments:

    1. Apparently the parents have taught their child well since the child came to the parents about it.

    2. For all the ignorance of the teacher, this is what you’d call a teachable moment for the child. It’s a time to review facts and show how wrong the teacher is. It is also a time to show that even people with degrees can be spectacularly ignorant.

    Personally, I’d teach my kid the facts. I’d then have them be one of those “so, Mr. Teacher is that so?” sort of kids. I suppose this would depend on the temperament of the child, but that would be a very effective strategy.

  • http://blaghag.blogspot.com/ Jennifurret

    The teacher is not giving his child proper science education, thus he needs to do something about it. It’s simple – has nothing to do with being an atheist or not. I’d talk to the teacher and his superiors. And honestly, if it’s an option, in this situation I’d pull my child out of the class. Connor apparently already knows the material, so why make him suffer through something that could make him understand science less?

  • Seabhag

    Just a comment on Connor’s recounting of what the teacher said. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he wasn’t spot on.
    This is because I grew up as a homeschooled creationist. Those kind of “scientists weren’t there so they can’t really know what happened, and all those bone fragments and reconstructions are just figments of their overactive, god-hating, imagination” statements were the bread and butter of creationism evangelists like Kent Hovand and others of his ilk. (I know, I know, I’m dating myself here :-/ )

    They really do think, or at least teach, that unless you observe something directly that it can’t be known. However, since God was there at the beginning and he told humans to write down what he told them happened (Genesis) we have a direct observer so we “know” that Creation happened the way the Bible describes.

  • Vas

    “…If my eyes told me Mary entered an apartment over and over, but the DNA indicated it was Susan, I would certainly go with the circumstantial evidence…”

    Really? How sad. So if a magician had a show and you saw it over and over, and each time he made an elephant disappear, but someone exposed the trick to you and explained how it was done… you would certainly believe the magician really made elephants disappear at each show because that’s what your eyes told you? *facepalm*
    On a side note I just started thinking about the cost of purchasing a new elephant for every show after making the old one vanish, wow that would be an expensive show ticket!

  • Sarah

    Personally I’d ascertain what the teacher put on the overhead (it could be that he was misunderstood by the young man.

    If the teacher was promoting creationism (which is likely) I’d get my kid transferred to another classroom so that his education isn’t damaged, talk to the principal about the situation and highly recommend the teacher be fired or reassigned as a gym teacher or something.

    Things like this make me want to homeschool my daughter.

  • Fundie Troll

    I absolutely applaud Dale for his reaction to this matter. We will not always agree with what every teacher is instructing our children. Teachers aren’t perfect, they are just ordinary people with an extraordinary responsibility to teach our children the BEST WAY THEY KNOW HOW.

    How much harm does Dale believe that this teacher is doing to his child? If he feels that it is worth removing his child from the class, then that is what he should do. If not, then it would be a beneficial experience and an opportunity to teach his child how to deal with the situation.

    BTW now you know how creationist parents feel about EVERY single science teacher in the public school system :)

  • Hitch

    On teachable moment, I think it’s true that the kid can learn from this, but there is also the thing that one does want kids to have a trust-relationship with teachers.

    If kids learn that teachers are kooks that too can undermine teaching. After all why assume that the next teacher isn’t full of it either, if there is no reference to check against.

    It’s too hard to fact-check everything. Hence it’s important that teachers who don’t present the facts are not in the classroom.

  • jose

    It annoys me how the teacher immediately tries to evangelize the parent just as he tries to evangelize children with his annoying question about witnessing and circumstancial evidence. It annoys me even more that he doesn’t use the gentle style that nice, honest, smiling old ladies with little religious brochures use, but the typical Hovind debating style, with dishonestly misleading questions phrased in a way so they already have an answer incorporated and you have to be constantly thinking “what is he going to tell me if I gave the apparently obvious answer”. Grrr.

    I wonder if the school knows it’s “teaching the controversy”. Apparently the teacher has ignored the father for three days. This issue isn’t just going to fly away by ignoring it.

  • adam

    Dale said:

    “…If my eyes told me Mary entered an apartment over and over, but the DNA indicated it was Susan, I would certainly go with the circumstantial evidence…”

    Vas Says:

    Really? How sad. So if a magician had a show and you saw it over and over, and each time he made an elephant disappear, but someone exposed the trick to you and explained how it was done… you would certainly believe the magician really made elephants disappear at each show because that’s what your eyes told you? *facepalm*
    On a side note I just started thinking about the cost of purchasing a new elephant for every show after making the old one vanish, wow that would be an expensive show ticket!

    @vas

    Actually dale was saying he’d go with the DNA evidence, DNA evidence is circumstantial evidence because you weren’t there when Mary/Susan was entering the apartment so it’s not direct unlike seeing it with your own eyes. but dale says he and the legal system would go with the DNA evidence because they acknowledge that witness testimony is can be and often is wrong unlike DNA.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    A science teacher teaching bad science and denigrating good science is not a coping problem for the family and child to deal with. It’s a matter of the teacher not doing his job in accordance with his contractual obligations, and possibly in contradiction of the law.

  • Miko

    “Experiments and evidence in the present can’t tell us anything about the distant past”? So, I assume the teacher also rejects all of astronomy since the light waves have been travelling for years before they reach us.

    By the way: there’s a great quote from Newton that I can’t quite recall, but which basically says that physics is only meaningful if its results are independent of both time frame and spacial location. If it were true that experiments in the present couldn’t tell us about the past, we’d have to give up on all of science. And the same is true for the future: based on past experiments, we can theorize the result of future actions. I’m sure even the nut science teacher would agree that we know what will happen if we throw a rock into the air, or what would happen if people eons from now were to throw a rock in the air. It’d be pretty bizarre that he thinks we have no way of learning anything about things that have already happened, yet have near unlimited knowledge about things that haven’t yet happened.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org RBH

    Man, one has to involve NCSE very early on. It has deep expertise in handing these kinds of situations and is not composed of flame-throwing culture warriors.

    And no, one doesn’t start filing lawsuits early in the process. It’s easy for people on the sidelines to holler “Sue the hastard!”, but it’s a sure way to rip a community apart. Read my posts on the Freshwater affair in central Ohio and/or read The Devil in Dover, Lauri Lebo’s account of the Kitzmiller trial in Dover, PA.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    @RBH,
    Perhaps my earlier comment requires clarification. Attorneys need to be involved, but this does not necessarily translate into litigation. Attorneys are useful in assisting clients in the accumulation and preparation of evidence, counseling clients on what to do or say to the teacher or school board, etc. A simple cease and desist letter is often enough to put the fear of (insert your favorite deity here) into most school boards and school administrators.
    As far as whether something “rips a community apart” or not would be the least of my worries. It’s not an argument against litigation. If a community consists of, or is dominated by bullying, ignorant turds, then perhaps it is in need of a little “ripping apart”.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org RBH

    The GM wrote

    Attorneys are useful in assisting clients in the accumulation and preparation of evidence, counseling clients on what to do or say to the teacher or school board, etc. A simple cease and desist letter is often enough to put the fear of (insert your favorite deity here) into most school boards and school administrators.

    Wholly correct, and I agree. One has to be wary, though: few lawyers are reasonably well versed in First Amendment issues, and so consulting the experts (NCSE and Americans United) very early on is a real good step.

    The GM further remarked

    If a community consists of, or is dominated by bullying, ignorant turds, then perhaps it is in need of a little “ripping apart”.

    As a last resort, maybe. But living through that in a small rural county, as I am now and Lauri Lebo did a few years ago, is a real aversive experience and entails some risks. The parents of the child who brought the original complaint in the Freshwater affair finally moved to a different county and school district on account of the harassment their children were getting from peers and even a few teachers. One has to be prepared to deal with that kind of situation, as do one’s children. It’s not a rewarding experience for anyone involved on either side. and people have to know that going into the fray. Establishing a network of external support early makes it easier and more likely to be effective. That’s purely tactical advice.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    @RBH,
    Yes, I mentioned the NCSE in my first comment in this thread. In fact I promote them by carrying an ad for them on my site.
    You are correct by stating that disruption to a community should come as a last resort. I read my last comment and see that I came off a little “hardcore”.
    As with all undertakings that involve competing Weltanschauungs there are risks and you are right to point them out. Unfortunately, life is not fair and sacrifices do have to be made from time to time. I suppose, in the end, it is a matter of deciding if the end result is worth the difficulty. Your input gives some idea of what the downside to such action might be.

  • VXbinaca

    Damage control is all you can do

  • inomniaparatus

    Even if you think you can educate your own kid at home, and clear up any misconceptions and lies taught by the creationist teacher, that is not a good enough reason to stay quiet. Not every kid is lucky enough to live with intelligent parents that are well-educated in science and evolutionary theory. It is simply not legal to teach creationism, and teachers like the one described are the reason why this country is scientifically illiterate. Students believe what they are taught, and since most students don’t pursue higher education in science, that science class may be the only opportunity some of the students will ever have to learn about evolution.

  • muggle

    In hindsight, I’m torn on this one and see Dale’s dilemma. I protested every violation large and small in my daughter’s education and lived to regret it because administration always backs up the teacher it seems (they don’t want to admit the school did anything wrong) and there was retaliation — like sticking her in the hall when teaching about the Scopes trial. I blew my top over that too and had to teach her about it myself.

    No wonder we wound up homeschooling her for high school.

    My daughter’s take is to field the nonsense when it comes home with my grandson and, frankly, I concur. Also, the bottom line is this is her kid and I’ll be glad to advise but that’s, in the end, her decision to make and proceed. She says she doesn’t care what they teach at school, she can counter it at home and she’s right. Frankly, since she’s fairly apathetic, this will mostly fall to me. I’m good with that. My grandson has a curious mind and asks me questions all the time (he already seems to know who thinks about shit all the time like he does) and he’s quite pleased when I’m honest enough to say I don’t know, let’s go to the internet and google it, shall we? We do. I think his favorite one yet (and I often throw in an image search because we’re both very visual; god, but that boy has got my personality down the line) was when he asked me, “How big is the largest snake in the world?” mainly because there were some nice scary pics on that that Grammy wasn’t terribly fond of it. I was the same way as a kid, pre-internet. If I got curious about something, I’d turn to the encyclopedias and library. Internet is way cooler and much more instant gratification.

    I think I am cool with my daughter’s way of handling as long as it isn’t too grievious. Not sure how she’d go on this but I do know how she would have in the Freshwater case. She’d have been ready to kill that teacher and would have gone after him no holds-barred. Her fuse is much longer than mine but when she blows, she blows sky high and it’s scary as shit.

    The thing is, it’s easy to say no way, sue, etc. but you do have to consider the consequences and how well you’re able to handle the consequences. Not everyone has means and the reason I didn’t sue for her being stuck out in the hall for the Scopes trial is because I had a cheap apartment and no means to really protect us from angry fundies if the case got publicized. I figured personal safety and mental well-being of my daughter was more important. So I taught her about Scopes and that they were assholes and let it at that. Frankly, yes, she lost faith in her teachers but so did I and when she not only asked to be home-schooled but showed me how she had researched options for it on the internet and provided me the research she’d done (I didn’t even have to find it for myself, just pay for it and do the paperwork to take her out of school), I took her out.

  • blueridgelady

    I’m not going to tell someone how to raise their children, but everyone jumping to the home school option are forgetting- not all parents make good school teachers!

    More importantly, even if the parents do decide to home school, is that something should be done, even if only for the sake of the other children at the mercy of this misguided guy. Proper Scientific information MUST be taught in science class!
    Many people forget that any position of authority can be threatening to a child, and many wouldn’t dare challenge a teacher. Who knows how many other kids this guy’s sold this rubbish to.

    The letters are a great start (and great documentation). I would schedule a meeting with teacher and principal immediately.

    The teacher has every right to correct his behavior and have his curriculum more closely scrutinized and changed. I think he should be given this opportunity before anyone calls to have him fired/suing school board and whatnot.
    Not that his “clever” little emails are helping him…

  • http://www.foundationbeyondbelief.org Dale McGowan

    @Franco, et al: When I said the first option I always consider is “Let it go,” I mean in life, in general, when confronting stupidity. In this case, I considered the option and discarded it. It’s not a childish question of having “teeth,” but a process of reflection on what will lead to the best outcome. Reflection is good.

    As for next steps, yes, I am in conversation with the administration now.

  • tomath

    I’ve seen no one mention the option of home-schooling only the science courses. Is this a feasible way to go? It would be a good education for the parents/guardians too, and much less demanding than a whole curriculum.

  • http://www.bigmama247.com Alise

    Hemant said:If I sneeze and someone says, “Bless you!” my mind would immediately ask why that person is trying to proselytize.

    This is why I always say, “You’re so good lookin’!”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2dWtK3tRpo

  • LeAnne

    Think about it this way. If this teacher was a doctor and they gave you poor information, it could lead to things like a malpractice suit or what have you..

    Why would we let teachers get away with providing bunk information?

    It’s no different than a teacher giving poor information. It’s their job to do the opposite, so I don’t really believe that this counts as ‘coping’, Karen.

  • David

    Firstly, the science teacher has made no reference to the students that he is a Christian. The science teacher did bring up the valid theory of evolution and criticized it in front of the students.

    Secondly, I have 20/20 hindsight in this matter. If I was the teacher I would have broken up the class into two sides with one side arguing the pros and the other side the cons of the theory. Students would spend a day in the library researching different sources to support their argument. The students would probably have said everything that the teacher said to his students as posted in the quote.

    Lastly, lets not confuse theory with the idea of absolute truth. The theory of evolution is not truth. The theory of evolution is a theory that helps us connect our understandings and observations through explanations.

    Reference list:
    Page 9 of http://icos.groups.si.umich.edu/Theory%20Development%20Workshop%20Slides.pdf retrieved on December 15, 2010.