Yesterday I spent the morning at a 'bar code party' at Bullard wherein I and other teachers commiserated with each other about the highs and lows of our just-completed year of teaching while bar coding textbooks. The district has finally purchased a software program that allows each school site's libraries to handle textbook maintenance, which will save us a great deal of hassle throughout the year....if all the textbooks are properly bar-coded.
Well, that takes some doing, and so our librarian Liz Dodds gave us an inducement to spend part of Friday at her digs, by offering us lunch. Who can pass that up, especially since Liz is so cheerful and tireless in her efforts to support us and the students? So I and two other science types managed to make our way over there, and lend our thews to the cause. This goes against my basic nature, because as the late Steve Gerber once remarked, "when I lend my thews out, they tend to come back damaged."
And it was so. Two hours and nearly 300 Biology texts later (which is only about 40 percent of those books, by the way), I called it quits, in part because I had to get back to working on cleaning out my own classroom. I have until Monday evening, really...gulp! But also, by the time I quit, my arms and lower back were sore from repeatedly lifting, cradling and labeling the texts, then moving stacks aside. Like many texts, the 'Dragonfly' books that we were labeling fit E.O. Wilson's definition of a magnum opus: that, if dropped from third-floor window, could conceivably kill a person if struck in the head.
And, as I worked on them, it occurred to me that Miller and Levine's text was no doubt a bit dangerous in another sense, it that it has repeatedly been the subject of 'sticker shock' and other creationist-motivated shenanigans to undermine the teaching of evolution in the public schools:
Now, a person might reasonably wonder how often this stuff comes up, or whether it's just southern states in which this silliness goes down, wherein local or state school boards attempt to either water down the definition of science or single out evolution for special attention with respect to its ontological status.
Well, it comes up routinely, throughout the United States. It came up in a very big way recently on the high school campus where I'm employed, over the unanimous objection of our science faculty, in a school district that is not dominated by conservative Christians, in a state that has excellent science standards where evolution is concerned, and in a school community that is committed to offering a high level college prep curriculum, with more students enrolled in AP courses than most other high schools. If it can happen at Bullard High School, it can happen anywhere.
That is doubtless why Ken Miller offers workshops on evolution education to address the misconceptions and (sadly) occasional falsehoods offered by advocates for various strains of creationism. The workshops come with resources, available here. But perhaps the best resource these days for giving a full-blown treatment of evolution as it should be taught in the public schools can be found here, at the University of California Museum of Paleontology's "Understanding Evolution" web site. This site must be effective, inasmuch as they have inspired litigation claiming that the UCMP site violates the Establishment Clause. Timothy Sandefur deconstructs those claims here.
Still, I wonder: suppose Sandefur and UCMP and Ken Miller and the National Center for Science Education are all judged to be wrong by some future court jam-packed with the best legal minds of a conservative bent available? Then, would my usage of Miller's text, not to mention my promotion of it on this blog and bar-coding for district use, wouldn't that make me somehow part of some grand attempt to violate the Establishment Clause? In fact, wouldn't that make science itself as practiced run afoul of the Constitution? I think that it would, if certain types had their way in the courts. Who knew that science could be so....subversive?