Creationists Embrace “Truth in Education” in Indiana

Many of evangelicals’ attempts to insert creationism into the classroom over the past half decade or so have actually been based in the rhetoric of progressive education. The latest development in Indiana’s nascent creationist wars is just one more example of this. Confused? Let me explain.

After laws banning the teaching of evolution in public schools were struck down in the 1960s creationists began arguing that schools should teach both creation and evolution and then let students make up their own minds. You have to understand how very progressive the idea that children should be presented with multiple theories and allowed to make up their own minds is. Conservative approaches to education have generally been hierarchical and authoritarian in nature – the teacher teaches, the student learns – while progressive approaches have generally been more egalitarian and self-directed – the teacher is the guide, helping the student form his or her own knowledge.

Well, it just so happens that evangelicals are at it again, once again appropriating progressive ideas to promote creationism and challenge evolution in the classroom. Here is some background from historian Adam Laats’ blog, I Love You But You’re Going To Hell:

Apparently, having failed to promote a two-models creation/evolution bill in he last legislative session, [Indiana State Senator Dennis] Kruse plans to offer a bill that will encourage students in Indiana’s schools to ask teachers to back up ideas with facts.

According to the Indianapolis Star, Kruse defended his plan as a “truth-in-education” measure:  “. . . if a student thinks something isn’t true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true.”

Kruse’s new strategy comes on the heels of new rules in New Hampshire and Missouri that will allow every public school student to recuse himself or herself from curricular materials he or she finds objectionable.  As I’ve argued elsewhere, these laws just won’t work.  Ideology and theology and biology aside, the classroom implementation of such regulations seems utterly impossible.

As the Indianapolis Star reports, critics have pointed out similar flaws with Kruse’s plan.  Nate Schnellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, argued that teachers could be asked to supply proof of everything, from evolution to the moon landing.  “It’s not workable,” Schnellenberger concluded.

The intention of such bills is clear: conservatives hope to protect students from indoctrination in ideas they find loathsome.  In Kruse’s case, he takes a weatherbeaten play from the old progressive playbook to make it happen.  If students can direct their own educations—challenging the classroom authority of their teachers on every point—then the chances of swallowing objectionable ideas decreases dramatically.

The idea that conservative evangelicals would encourage students to question and challenge their teachers is, on its face, extremely confusing. Interestingly, this is one of those weird places where you see a flip-flop in positions, as progressives overwhelmingly oppose attempts to “teach both sides” and likely Kruse’s proposed law as well. In other words, creationists (i.e. conservatives) are arguing that students should be able to make up their own minds and question their teachers while progressives are arguing that only one perspective should be taught and that teachers should teach and students should accept what they are taught.

What is going on here? 

First, I have argued I have argued before that creationists are only adopting progressive arguments out of pragmatism:

When I hear the talk of teaching “both sides,” I can’t help but feel that if creationists had their way, they would never ask for teaching “both sides” at all, but would instead prefer to teach only their side. Creationists use the “both sides” argument both because they know that in today’s world there is no way to ban evolution from the schools entirely, and because it is a good rhetorical tool.

In other words, I have a hard time believing that those who believe their religion requires them to believe the world was created six thousand years ago are really okay with students making up their own minds on the issue.

When I was homeschooled by evangelical parents, for example, I wasn’t taught both sides, I was taught only one side – creationism. The same is true of the curriculum used in most (evangelical) Christian schools. Then, when I actually looked at both sides in college and made up my own mind on the issue, accepting the science behind evolution, my parents and church responded with grave concern and consternation.

Second, progressives generally trust the scientific community and see science as something that is objective rather than subjective. In other words, it’s one thing to let students make up their own minds about the significance of a line of Shakespeare in English class and something else entirely to let them make up their own minds about the age of the earth. I’ve often heard progressives argue that children simply do not have the knowledge needed to judge scientific arguments on issues like evolution. Thus, acting like there is a scientific debate over an issue like evolution when there is not, and then leaving it up to children to make up their own minds on it, is simply not seen as an effective way to approach science education.

Unfortunately, I think progressives’ approach can create some confusion for evangelicals, because it looks from their perspective as though progressives are okay with skepticism when it comes to things like religion or the Bible, but not when it comes to science. I remember hearing growing up as an evangelical that evolutionists had simply replaced faith in the Bible with faith in scientists.

I wish I knew how to fix these disconnects. The two sides are talking past each other. As a progressive myself, it would be easy to just dismiss the creationist side entirely, but I can’t do that. I grew up in a young earth creationist family in a young earth creationist church. I can’t just dismiss them all as disingenuous or impermeable to communication.

Part of me wonders whether there is a way to take creationists at their word on things like Indiana’s proposed “Truth in Education” bill. Perhaps being more open to discussing such questions in the classroom, and to teaching not just what science says but also how to do science, would help answer the claim that evolution is a dogma that is not open to questions and also result in students having a better understanding of both science and evolution. Then again, Laats is right that the law tends toward educational anarchy, and I know very little about everything that goes into teaching science to students in public schools.

Still, I’d like to think there is a solution of some sort out there.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Gordon

    I’d like to see how open they are to this strategy being used in church.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com MargueriteF

    “. . . if a student thinks something isn’t true, then they can question the teacher and the teacher would have to come up with some kind of research to support that what they are teaching is true or not true.”

    I can imagine students willfully using this to disrupt the class. “How do you know 2+2=4? Can you point us to a paper on the topic?”

    • BabyRaptor

      That was probably the intent. Mr/Mrs Science Teacher is up front doing their lesson on evolution, and the class Creationist starts demanding proof for every fact they put out, thus completely derailing the lesson and making sure nothing gets accomplished.

      It also encourages another issue: Teacher gives X fact, Student demands proof, Teacher provides proof and Student says “I don’t think that’s true. Got anything else?” over and over.

      • Ariel

        I’ve seen how good students are at not listening to what I say when they truly don’t want to believe it. Usually this happens when I’m explaining why they deserved their F/D/C/B and do not actually deserve the C/B/A they think they’re entitled to. I really don’t want to have those discussions in the classroom over course material.

    • Christine

      The real problem isn’t that they can ask for proof. The problem is that any proof they’re given they’re going to ignore. If someone was raised to believe that carbon dating is a myth, do you really think that they’re going to believe you when you explain about the temperature gradients in the Earth’s crust, or are they just going to go “I don’t understand that, it must be wrong” and take it home for a hand-wavy explanation?

      • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

        That occurred to me as well. There’s no ‘in class demonstration’ version of a lot of things, and there isn’t any good way to ‘prove’ them, especially if a person is already inclined to doubt any but the most blatant evidence. Trying to fulfill even honest versions of this situation is more than can reasonably be expected of a high school science teacher.

      • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com MargueriteF

        Very true. If creationists ever really listened to scientific explanations, we wouldn’t still be having these arguments. Instead they respond, “Oh, evolution isn’t true, anyone can look around and see life on Earth is too complex to have been ‘created by accident,’” or refer to their own “experts,” who of course don’t agree. The kids of creationists probably aren’t going to be persuaded by real science, either.

    • Twist
    • http://sidhe3141.blogspot.com sidhe3141

      …at which point the teacher assigns “Principia Mathematica” as a reading assignment.

    • Sheila

      I think one of the biggest problems regarding asking for evidence is that people treat evolution as a fact, when it’s not. Just like creationism, it’s subject to the limitations that come with being an interpretation of incomplete historic facts. Both are not hard sciences- you can’t test or repeat history, you can only try to find the best conclusion you can from what facts you do have. But evolutionary theory is treated like an untouchable truth, and creationism as idiocy, though neither of those depictions is accurate. There are well-supported and problematic facets of each idea, and they should be treated and presented that way.

      As a creationist, I very much understand the need to teach evolutionary theory- I’m of the opinion that if you’re going to believe something, you should at least know about opposing viewpoints, and be able to reasonably defend your ideas. But all of that that goes for evolution as well; the theory shouldn’t be able to hide behind popular consensus. I also believe our search in science should be for truth & understanding, and while we can never truly have that for history, I believe that people are closing the door on creationism not due to science but due to philosophical and cultural presumptions- and that’s not excusable.

      I think the best approach is to teach scientific facts free from interpretation- things like how genes & DNA work, general biology & geology, how fossils are formed and where they’re found, etc. Then introduce evolutionary theory along with creationism, ID, and philosophy in a separate course AFTER the students learned, value-free, what we absolutely know & can prove in a lab.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

        Most of the “well supported problems” with evolution have been disproved. Which ones are you referring to?

      • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

        …and would any of these “well-supported problems” be covered at talkorigins.org? I’ve seen creationists present lots of “problems with evolution” that turned to be……well, lets be charitable and call them “misunderstandings” of either the theory or the evidence.

        And BTW, the “popular consensus” is the one shared by virtually all scientists in the relevant fields (anyone who tells you that scientists are abandoning evolution in droves is, um, “misunderstanding” that too), and it’s not “hiding behind” it, it’s right out in the open in the scholarly literature.

      • pgrmdave

        I don’t think you understand that science doesn’t deal in facts – it deals in predictions and measurements. Evolutionary theory predicted DNA, it explains why there is so much variety in life, and it’s a useful model to predict how populations will change. Creationism doesn’t make any testable predictions and isn’t a useful model.

  • thalwen

    The solution is to teach creation stories as part of a comparative religions course. Which I think should be mandatory given how ignorant most Americans are of other religions and their own. Where it doesn’t belong is a science classroom because it isn’t science.

    I think, instead of fighting them, teachers should just call their bluff. Since we can’t just limit religious teaching to just one Christianity. Why not teach all the creation stories? Like the Hindu one about us all being formed from celestial yoghurt, that one’s pretty cool. Or why not teach that lightning happens because Zeus got mad at someone? Or introduce the debates between old and young earth creationists. Nothing like inclusion and diversity to send the fundies running for the hills.

    • Noelle

      Not every school offers comparative religion or humanities courses, and for those who do it’s often not required. And if it is required, it’d be tricky to ensure everyone takes it the same year as biology. I’d recommend letting creation myths and stories being part of the science class itself. There’s no reason to spend a lot of time on it. It could be done with a guest lecturer if the science teacher wasn’t familiar with a nice array of myths. It should’t take more than a day or 2. I also like the idea of personal projects on the student’s end, with research into the history of the myth and its people and how it’s changed with time. Then a day to share the projects and compare myths. Many of them are quite fascinating and give a picture of how people thought about the world prior to modern science. There’s no need to debate which is true or best, because they’re all equal stories. And there’s no reason this would need to take place in a different classroom. As someone in the applied science field, believe you me that science doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s full use requires knowing as much as you can about all the aspects of it, even cultural and historic.

      • thalwen

        There’s no reason creationism has to be taught alongside biology. My point is that schools should require comparative religion (I know many don’t) because as Americans, we are woefully uneducated about religions, including our own. My point is that creation stories belong in those types of classes or English classes examining the storyline or the writing style. They do not belong in a science classroom because they are not science and have nothing to do with science. A project on the biographies of mathematicians, for example, would at least have some relation to the math curriculum. Also, any “personal project” is likely to be immediately hijacked by creationism supporters as a back door to teach creationism. Just like this legislation supposedly to “improve discourse in the classroom” is nothing more than an attempt to put creationism back in the science classrooms. Schools, also do not exist in a vacuum. Some exist in very fundamentalist communities that prefer creationism to science and would like nothing more than to teach it as fact, to the detriment of the education of the kids in the school.

    • Carys Birch

      My parents would have been ADAMANTLY against having me taught any religion other than Christianity in school. In fact, I don’t even think that comparative religions was taught at my evangelical college. Unless it was tucked away deep in the ministry department where us regular philosophy majors could get at it by accident. :P Woe is me! The contamination!

      So if comparative religions had been offered, I wouldn’t have been allowed to take it. If it had been mandatory, I’d have been pulled out of school even earlier.

  • G Risk

    Unfortunately, the *goal* of this bill is to encourage students to disrupt biology lessoes with creationist talking points, thereby discouraging teachers from attempting the subject.

    It’s just like that “academic freedom” language that is equally spurious. The term refers to academic research; even a university professor is still requires to stick to a syllabus for teaching purposes.

    Primary or secondary teachers rarely do research, and I don’t think restrictions on that activity are a serious issue.

  • http://brokendaughters.wordpress.com Lisa

    I agree with what was said by a previous commentor. Creationism does not belong into a biology class. It belongs in some class which teaches religion, philosophy and worldviews – whatever you want to call it. I think it IS important to teach a religion or worldviews class in school, but it should be clearly stated that this is a belief of group 1, and there’s another belief of group 2 and so on. Education concerning (religious) thinkers and philosphers is important for a well-rounded education, but it needs to go where it belongs, a class which deals with ideas, not with science like biology does.

    When I went to school I took such a class, and I thought it was very useful not on a scientific level but for my personal development. So yeah, they should go right ahead and teach kids more stuff about the diversity of ideas in this world.

    • PetraLorre

      Yeah, we got a lot of this at my high school…in English and History classes, not Biology. Although it’s worth mentioning that there was a Biology teacher there who annually took a week’s worth of personal days when it was time to teach evolution.

    • Noelle

      Why can’t you mix the humanities with science?

      • Ray

        Because it should not be placed on the science teachers to teach a subject that they are unqualified for and science takes a long time to teach. As a future science teacher, I would not feel alright spending 1 to 3 days explaining theology when I rather have my students do labs to help them understand the science I am teaching them. Plus it would not be my place to teach theology.

      • Christine

        There should be humanities mixed with science, but this is outside of the scope. As Ray said – it’s an advanced subject, why are we making the science teachers do it (for that matter, why are we making the science teachers grade graphic design? But that’s another rant…)

        The humanities that belong in science class are the ones that a scientist needs to be well-versed in (and even then, it’s not really reasonable to expect the scientists to be familiar enough with them to teach them – I had to go to another faculty in university for my impact course, and we only had to take one). More along the lines of what the impact of certain areas of study are, why we need to respect that the limits are, research ethics, etc.

      • Noelle

        I disagree. I am trained as a scientist. I also have a background rich in the humanities. I am a lifelong learner and still gravitate toward learning new information about everything all the time. A subject is more interesting and exciting when you are allowed to explore all it’s angles. Science is not a sacred thing which exists only in its own plane, untouchable by the world around it. Science has history. It has people. It has politics. It is a living and breathing and constantly changes and affects our lives. It wants to be questioned and tested. It wants to be relevant. To teach it as dry and dull, without life or meaning, is a disservice to the field. If you hope to engage young minds and get young people to care and want to learn science, show them why and how it matters. Then get out there and do it. So many elementary school children say that science is their favorite subject. They get to do and play with stuff and learn hard concepts about the world, and it’s fun. Why would we give this up once they hit puberty?

        The thing with evolution is that all their lives many of these children have been told repeatedly that one day their public school will try to teach them a lie and they are to ignore it. Nay, they should preach out against it and exorcise that demon called science away from their active little neurons. And they are ready to discard whatever the teacher puts in front of them, because they will go to Hell if they do not. As good little Christians, they just know they’re not related to monkeys, and they will earn heavenly brownie points for ignoring you. You cannot ignore the preconceived bias. You cannot belittle the preconceived bias. Politics and religion are part of their world too, just as much as science. Work with it. This is an excellent opportunity to teach critical thinking and the importance of the scientific method. It is a good place to start teaching the language of science. Those of us who speak it fluently sometimes forget that it is a second language and must be taught. And by giving as many different creation stories as possible in a short time period, and acknowledging that this is how people viewed the world before they had the tools to do otherwise, you are proving the very purpose of science: to constantly explore, to always know more, to know everything, and use it. And that all this was done by plain old ordinary people without any divine intervention.

        Creation stories are quite simple. They are children’s tales and campfire stories. They are not difficult to learn. If you can memorize a periodic table, I’m sure you could handle it. If you are not interested in giving this lecture yourself, many a guest lecturer would jump at the chance to do something that’s so much fun. Or you could go the route of splitting students into groups, or solo, to do an overnight quickie research project where everyone has to pick a different story (only one gets to take the OT story), and then let them share. You could make it a full class event, though it might be nicer to split it up and do a few for 5-10 minutes at the beginning of several class periods. It’s quick and easy, not something for which you need a separate degree. I learned many creation stories myself during one of my religion electives as an undergrad. It was enjoyable, easy, and took no time at all.

      • Ray

        Noelle, we will have to disagree. 5-10 minutes is 10-20% of the 50 minutes of my time teaching students. Like I said I rather do interesting labs with my students than take the time to conduct lessons involving theology. There is also the common core standard that I will have to have my future students learn that sets the bar higher and higher. Taking time to teach theology means I will be taken time away from having them have a deeper understanding of the conceptions the government wants me to teach. And this is terrible, by the way.

        Creation stories are not simple. They require context. It is not quick and easy as you may think. Teachers do not get a lot of leeway in what they teach from parents and the system.

        I agree a bit with mixing humanities into science and that has been apart of science classes since I was in grade school. However, your idea of a speaker is not something a school will be willing to do on the basis of budget and potential lawsuit. Besides it would off set the teachers.

      • Noelle

        We had the occasional guest speaker for English and History and no one got upset. But maybe those are different.

        Theology and Mythology aren’t the same thing. I agree that theology does not have a place in a public school prior to the college level. Myths could be mentioned in just about any class where they were pertinent information, or an interesting side. If every school offered a good Humanities course where these were presented, then this would be a nice option. My experience with that class is that it’s an art elective that only a few people take. There’s no reason the stories couldn’t be referenced in other courses though.

        I hear ya on time constraints. It would be nice if more class time were given for the sciences in general. That higher level stuff is hard work. How about thought/factoid of the day on the chalkboard/whiteboard/smart board/holographic mind-control robot? I liked it when teachers had these. It gave my ADHD brain something to think about, and the teacher almost never talked about what was on the board.

        “Salts are ionic compounds resulting from neutralization of an acid and base. The one most likely found on your kitchen table is NaCl.”

      • Noelle

        We had the occasional guest speaker for English and History and no one got upset. But maybe those are different.

        Theology and Mythology aren’t the same thing. I agree that theology does not have a place in a public school prior to the college level. Myths could be mentioned in just about any class where they were pertinent information, or an interesting side note. If every school offered a good Humanities course where these were presented, then this would be a nice option. My experience with that class is that it’s an art elective that only a few people take. There’s no reason the stories couldn’t be referenced in other courses though.

        I hear ya on time constraints. It would be nice if more class time were given for the sciences in general. That higher level stuff is hard work. How about thought/factoid of the day on the chalkboard/whiteboard/smart board/holographic mind-control robot? I liked it when teachers had these. It gave my ADHD brain something to think about, and the teacher almost never talked about what was on the board.

        “Salts are ionic compounds resulting from neutralization of an acid and base. The one most likely found on your kitchen table is NaCl.”

        “No one really knows if Avagadro enjoyed avacados.”

        “Many ancient peoples held superstitious significance to rainbows. We know them as an optical phenomenon resulting from the reflection of light in water droplets in the atmosphere giving off a spectrum of light in the sky that we perceive as a multi-colored arc.”

        “Quiz on Friday. Calculators allowed.”

        I loved stuff like that. Especially calculators. Math got more interesting when the numbers were a secondary concern. The real point is that if you’re going to teach something that is politically or culturally charged, you will lose students if it is never addressed in any form. School is a nice place to address something in a purely scholarly manner, and to clear previously held misconceptions.

      • Noelle

        sigh, ignore the double-post.

  • ScottInOH

    I’m afraid I’m with pessimists BabyRaptor and G Risk on this one, Libby Anne: This bill and the movement of which it is a part are not honest efforts at constructive debate. They are attempts to derail science education.

    If conservatives were interested in moving the debate forward, what would be helpful is to use words like “science,” “theory,” and “faith” honestly. As readers of this blog surely know, conservatives use science/philosophy/religion, theory/guess, and faith/trust almost interchangeably, which makes it possible to argue that science is just another religion, no more or less likely to accurately describe the world than any other. Hogwash. And dangerous hogwash, at that.

  • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

    Perhaps being more open to discussing such questions in the classroom, and to teaching not just what science says but also how to do science, would help answer the claim that evolution is a dogma that is not open to questions and also result in students having a better understanding of both science and evolution.

    Larry Moran (http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/) has been suggesting this for years. He figures that creationism would lose big time, and that would be the end of the discussion (I’m dubious: it depends on how it’s done). And the bit I’ve bolded is exactly what K-12 science education should aspire to, with or without creationism as a motivator.

    • Christine

      I agree that it’s what they should be trying to do. Without the creationist agenda, this bill basically legislates that teachers be good teachers (which is impossible to do, so I’m not in favour of it for that). Once you get to the middle and senior grades, a teacher should be open to dialogue with the students, not just handing down edicts of The Way Things Are from on high.

  • Ibis3

    Of course, kids won’t just disrupt science classes with this. “How do you *know* Julius Caesar existed? Were you theeeere?”

    A good science education includes learning about the scientific method, and I would think most curricula go over how scientists made the discoveries they did (e.g. Darwin’s finches and his insights about artificial selection would be covered when the topic of evolution is taught), and what evidence there is that show us what we know (e.g. ring species, DNA that demonstrates ancestry would all be part of teaching evolution). So, what exactly are creationists wanting that isn’t being done already? They want teachers to stop teaching anything that goes against their indoctrination. That’s what this bill is designed to do.

    If that cartoon accurately displays what the fundamentalists think about science, it’s no wonder they’re confused. Scientists don’t “write up facts,” scientists observe reality and report what they see. And our understanding of those observations are bound to get more accurate the more we observe. It’s like a map, that each day gets filled in a bit more as we travel forward. It would be stupid to hold onto the map we had when we started the journey. We want the newest, most accurate map that shows everything we know so far. If someone behind us makes a new trail, that part of the map should be filled in with the new information. We don’t insist that the map remain unchanging because it’s something we rely upon. Rather, since we rely on it, it must change to show every new discovery and every new object that we create. That makes it more reliable, not less.

    • Rosie

      I think you’re right; it’s a fundamental difference in worldview. The authoritarian worldview views Truth as something always handed down from an authority (or preferably capital-A Authority), and fails to understand that anybody might seek truth or Truth any other way. If an “authority” contradicts itself, or changes its mind, it immediately becomes suspect, unreliable, untrustworthy. But science has ordinary fallible people seeking out truths and creating a working model, and has no place for any kind of (unquestioned/unquestionable) Authority anywhere. If the working model can’t accomodate new information, it’s tossed out to make room for a better one. If you think of Truth as something that’s handed down from a higher power, it’s difficult to understand truth as something sought out and sifted through and organized by humans, and vice versa.

  • Angela

    We do teach “both sides.” Evolution is taught in science classes and Christian creationist beliefs are covered in theology classes along with the beliefs of many other religions that also conflict with modern scientific discovery. True that many high schools do not offer theology as part of their curriculum but somehow I don’t think that these “progressives” are advocating for more high schools to offer more into to world religion courses. Instead they are suggesting we incorporate theology into science class and not a balanced theological perspective either but an exclusive Christian one.

    As far as students (or parents) being allowed to challenge any aspect of the curriculum I’m all for it although I don’t know why it should be the burden of the teacher to produce what they’re looking for. Why not instead point inquisitive students (or parents) toward the library. If they require assistance finding what they need then that is what librarians are for. Then if after an exhaustive search the student finds there is no factual basis for that element of the curriculum they can then present the teacher and/or school board with their findings and petition to have it changed. Oh wait! That already IS allowed. It seems to me that the only difference between the current system and the proposed model is that students/parents are required to put forth a little time and effort into their cause rather than dumping it all on the teacher.

  • LeftWingFox

    At it’s heart it’s still authoritarian.

    You’re supposed to bother the teachers and scientists with these questions.

    Just don’t bother the priest with them.

    • Nea

      Very good point!

  • smrnda

    I am all for presenting multiple perspectives, at least when each perspective on an issue has some validity, and I think it’s a good exercise sometimes to try to come up with the strongest arguments for a bad idea, if only to get inside the mind of someone who might think that way.

    The problem is that, in some areas, you don’t have ‘different’ perspectives, you have some which have a lot of evidence behind them and others with very little evidence. Teaching them as if they were two equal sides is just plain wrong, wrong because it misrepresents the weak idea as more valid than it should be, and wrong morally since, effectively, presenting two ideas (one with much more evidence to support it than the other) is really just lying.

    The real problem is that this bill is worded vaguely with no mention of creationism, but it’s clearly an attempt to get kids to hijack biology class. Something that’s always been bothersome to me is that Christians often encourage their kids to attack ideas that they aren’t equipped to understand, but I think this goes with what someone said above that truth isn’t viewed as something you find out by studying things, but that’s handed down by an authority figure.

    I’m also convinced that the people behind this bill would have no problem removing the teaching of evolution from school if they could – the ‘both sides’ is just a way for them to try to sneak in, with the end goal of making creationism the only ‘theory’ taught.

  • Noelle

    Since when do you need a bill for students to interrupt class to ask why and how? Teachers shouldn’t be expected to just hand all that out if it’s too time consuming, but this is an excellent opportunity for students to learn how to use the resources available to them for self-research. It’s also a good time to reinforce critical thinking skills, research methods, scientific language, how to know a reliable a valid resource when you see one, etc.

    Absolutely, if the kid wants to know why 2+2=4, you should point that kid in the direction of math theory. Your smarties will get smarter, and your smart-asses will learn to keep their mouths shut if they don’t want the extra work.

  • smrnda

    I looked at the cartoon a bit more, and it reminded me of one of the Ken Ham books that I read by how badly it fails to understand the process of science. The perspective of science is always that it’s like a collection of facts that are said to be true, but which might be totally overturned tomorrow, and that those facts might be totally dismissed in a year.

    The problem is that science doesn’t work that way – it isn’t like everything Newton said was wrong, we’ve just improved a bit in the areas where his theories fall short of fail to make correct predictions. We understand evolution better than Darwin did. It isn’t like ‘science book 2013′ is going to be totally different from ‘science book 2012′ – there will be some changes, but probably not a lot of them.

    The other problem is the whole ‘trusting scientists is about faith.’ CS Lewis brought this one up where he said (if I recall) that science encourages gullibility rather than skepticism. His problem is that he isn’t taking into account that scientific ideas are rigorously tested by experts; they have to stand up to scrutiny of people who actually know things. There’s a good reason why I should believe a scientist, the same way that there’s a good reason why I should believe my doctor rather than some random person when it comes to my health. I think a problem is when certain non-scientists read scientific information, they don’t understand it, and then assume that nobody really does and that everybody is just accepting it’s true without understanding.

  • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

    Because evolution is so “controversial”, and because there are so many other topics covered in science (at both the elementary and secondary level), the typical high school evolution unit is short and perfunctory (I suspect a week would be really long for this kind of unit). While genuine questioning is the cornerstone of real critical thinking, evolution class as usually taught doesn’t lend itself to any such rigor. All this proposal would do is give students carte blanche to disrupt class. “Teaching not just what science says but also how to do science” is a method that does lend itself to the rigor of this kind of questioning, and perhaps the kids in AP Biology get to that point.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia lucrezaborgia

      From what I remember of HS biology, it was a grand total of one page in our biology book and we probably spent not even an entire lecture period on it. It’s just not that important at this stage of learning when you have sooo much other stuff to go over in a very short period of time.

      As to the OT: I have no problem teaching creationist myth…just as soon as sex education is allowed to teach things other than abstinence. :D

    • Noelle

      Your point illustrates a problem in general with science education in many US schools. Not enough time is spent on it, and it’s not taught in a method conductive to learning. I attended what was considered a very good public HS, and we didn’t have the time or facilities for a chemistry lab. I think physics was the only science class I took at that level which incorporated a lab in addition to book work. The whole memorize a bunch of facts and formulas to regurgitate on the test isn’t much more useful than the believe it because the bible says so approach.

  • Chad

    Geez! I live in Indiana and this is the kind of crap that makes me pay extra close attention to information my kids bring home. Never mind all of the top-notch Universities in Indiana that would gladly laugh in the face of Kruse… He is so completely misguided when he should in fact do himself a favor and ask the very question he want’s the children to ask, “Prove it with facts.” Okay Mr. Kruse, first off– prove Intelligent Design. Good luck on that by the way. Next– should we also require private schools (Christian, etc.) to teach Evolution?

    Give me a break and quit fucking with our children’s future! If you want your children to live in ignorance in the Age of Information, then don’t even bother having electricity in your house. What a disgrace.

    It almost looks like Indiana will be going the Marijuana route in the future, yet there is still debates about Evolution and the age of the Earth in regards to educational curriculum… My goodness, Cannabis has been around longer than our Earth has existed. That’s cool…

    • http://dukesofearl.blogspot.com Joy

      “. Next– should we also require private schools (Christian, etc.) to teach Evolution?”

      –ha. Oh, I would love to see reciprocity in these things–Yes, we will teach “creation science” in public schools when you allow our public teachers to come teach theology in YOUR CHURCH.

    • Steve

      >”Next– should we also require private schools (Christian, etc.) to teach Evolution?”

      Yes. There is absolutely no reason for private schools to not follow certain standards. They can distinguish themselves in extra activities and their teaching methods for example, but why should they have a different core curriculum?

      • Christine

        I think it’s ok for them to have a different core curriculum if they do so by adding to the public one. i.e. in Ontario the Catholic board has the same requirements as the public one for a high school diploma PLUS 4 religion credits. And I believe that you’re entitled to a diploma anyhow if you meet all the public board requirements but not the religion ones, although I don’t know how that works.

      • ButchKitties

        @Christine, that’s how it was at my Catholic high school in Indiana. We had to do the core curriculum required in public schools, plus the religion credits, plus additional math/science/humanities requirements.

        As long as the differences are “in addition to” and not “instead of” or “omitting” I don’t really have a problem with them.

  • Twist

    “In other words, creationists (i.e. conservatives) are arguing that students should be able to make up their own minds and question their teachers while progressives are arguing that only one perspective should be taught and that teachers should teach and students should accept what they are taught.”

    Would this also apply to say, teaching that the earth is flat as well as round and letting the students make up their own minds? How about plate tectonics versus expanding earth theory? Geocentric versus heliocentric models of the solar system? Germ theory of disease versus miasma theory?

    Actually I think a class on all of these could really help kids get to grips with the scientific method, critical thinking and drawing conclusions based on evidence rather than what someone in authority tells you.

    • Twist

      I say round, I mean (roughly) spherical.

      • Christine

        Despite what we all learned about the eccentricity of the Earth, it’s more of a perfect sphere than a billards ball. Yes, it’s measureable, but percentage wise it’s nothing.

  • Mike

    I think the same standards of evidence should be applied to both. I don’t think schools are or should be required to present things like a 6000 year old earth as fact. I could see perhaps some benefit to going over the evidence for a 6000 year old earth except of course there is no evidence, so any intellectually honest approach would devolve into ‘This is why creation argument are wrong” which I doubt would make the creationists happier.
    The only way to avoid this would be to teach it in the context of religion being myth, as opposed to history or geology, etc. Which would itself naturally bring up the awkward question of “why isn’t the bible those things”
    Anyway, in my experience progressives actually aren’t generally against religion being taught per se, they are against religion being taught in an intellectually dishonest way. For instance, noone is upset that students are taught Greek mythology in school.

  • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

    I think conservatives appropriate progressive language a lot. I’ve been noticing it in arguments against abortion and contraception, e.g. using ideas of bodily autonomy and gender inequity to oppose them.


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