5/08/2009

INTIMIDATION, OR OPPORTUNITY?

I'm a member of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). It is, as its website declares, the national organization which is dedicated to 'defending the teaching of evolution in public schools.' Over the years, NCSE has assisted thousands of teachers who were being pressured to not teach evolution, or to add things like 'creation science' or 'intelligent design' to the curriculum.

Well, I've never felt much need for NCSE, personally. I'm a lucky guy: my school district (FUSD) uses an excellent Biology text (Miller and Levine) with solid coverage of evolution. Our administration understands that evolution is part of the state standards and really wants us to excel on the CST's based on those standards. There's no question that evolution should be taught, and taught well. So my conflicts boil down to either parents or students.

I've yet to have a question raised by a parent or student that I didn't feel that I could answer both lawfully and in accord with the California State Standards in Biology. I've always found it easy to treat the beliefs of students and parents with respect without compromising the science. Students need to be told that it is 'OK' to believe what they want, but that it is 'not OK' to be ignorant.

On those rare occasions where questions were raised, I did not see the conflict as a case of intimidation, but rather as an opportunity to do community service. When I can have a civil, respectful conversation with another parent about what the state says we should teach and what evolutionary theory actually is, I have found (knock on wood) that in every case I was not only able to allay their fears but received an opportunity to consider the merits of evolution simply as science. This, in turn, tends to trigger conversations in the larger community. If I can present a positive spin on the teaching of evolution, then hopefully over time more and more people in the community will become more sympathetic and supportive of biology teaching.

So, why am I posting this now? Well, I'm getting a little more in-depth to evolution right now (Ch. 16 in Miller and Levine) and this is usually where I get a little 'blowback' from students or parents. It goes with the territory! Rather than view it with dread, I feel optimistic. I know that my curriculum will pass muster with both the law and best practice, so it really comes down to how I treat people.

1 comment:

wfr said...

Thank you Scott. I wish there were more like you.