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.



I teach at Bullard High School, and the school community received a blow several weeks ago when it became clear that one of my colleagues, Doreena Koopman, was losing her battle with cancer. This is my ninth year of teaching, and I have not known a time when 'Frau Koopman' was not dealing, in some way, with cancer. To a certain extent, her fellow teachers (including me) have taken the fact that she was dealing with cancer as routine.

But the week before we left on Spring Break, administration made a point of letting us know that Doreena, who had been out for weeks prior to that, would be coming back for one day to see her students, and that this was the last day she would be with us this semester. I made it my business to visit her that morning during my prep. I gave her a hug and said that I would see her again.

Well, not in this life. Doreena passed away on April 17th, and by her own wishes her remains were cremated. Her passing is the the subject of this article from the Fresno Bee. Last night, the Bullard community had a belated 'Celebration of Life' in the campus theatre and many memories were shared.

Frau Koopman was an intellectual in every sense of the word, the kind who read the New York Times Review of Books and had a breadth of knowledge unusual in a high school instructor. She was passionate about teaching German immersively, and was a campus leader on the subject of accreditation and providing opportunities for learning outside the classroom. I would imagine, however, that her students will remember her less for the ideas that animated her than for the way she interacted with them in the face of great personal difficulty.

Speaking of difficult, I can't write any more at this time. I'm still processing, still filled with mixed feelings. I will say this: on the subject of mortality, Roger Ebert has something serious to say that I will commend to anyone.



From Ph.D:





This is simply an amazing article, about something most of us have never heard about, that will set you mind to work. It's a rabbit hole of unanswered questions, not just concerning a hidden message but why we often labor in secrecy to build anagoges of private meaning. From the point of the view of the artist who created it, this might well be a rumination on the nature of creativity. Certainly, I can speak for the point of view of the composer who derives musical strucure from materials which are embedded in the work, and which form a personal touchstone of meaning known only to myself. Pretentious-sounding, I know, but the truth is that the art I create always has a meaning only known to myself....a 'cryptic ethos'.