Gasp! A concern has been raised as to what gets taught in Mr. Hatfield's classes concerning evolution, and I've decided it would be prudent for me to publicly state what I've privately affirmed to colleagues within district channels. If you've no interest in the question of what should be taught, skip this post. If you want to see how folks like me handle such questions, read on.....

As it happens, at the beginning of 4th period yesterday (May 14th) , a concerned student asked me why she had been called into the office to discuss 'religion.' If this student is to be believed, she was asked to verify claims that I was pushing religion in the classroom. The student was more than a bit shocked by this, and was frankly a little worried. I played it off, but in the back of my mind, little wheels clicked as I quickly reviewed my own memories of what, exactly, I've been covering: 'Where is this coming from?' This comes a few days after a V.P. visited me and asked me similar questions, such as 'Did I say God did not exist?' or some such.

Which, of course, never happened. But apparently some parent has got a bee in their bonnet because their student repeated (accurately) the (correct) claim that evolution is a fact. There is an understandable confusion here: evolution is of course a fact, but the public hears us saying 'evolutionary theory' or 'theory of evolution', which leads to the mistaken impression that evolution itself is 'just a theory'.

Anyway, for the record, Mr. Hatfield teaches the same evolution that the other teachers at Bullard High School teach, the evolution described in the state standards and in our approved text (Miller and Levine). The latter defines it as a fact, as follows: 'Evolution, or change over time, is the process by which modern organisms have descended from ancient organism." Later on, the book gives a more technical definition: "In genetic terms, evolution is any change in the relative frequency of alleles in a population."

Neither one of these are theoretical objects! They are brute facts about the natural world: populations do change over time, and this change is known to have a genetic basis. I would prefer to meet privately with any parents to address these concerns, but since that course was apparently not being pursued it seemed prudent to make public disclaimers.

But, of course, the real issue is that there are parents out there who want their children to be protected from pesky little facts that, in their minds, contradict what they hold near and dear. They believe that evolution is a belief system of sorts whose purpose is to knock their (religious) beliefs, and since they think it's all about belief, many of them are convinced that they are entitled to have evolution and natural selection presented as purely theoretical objects. They expect us to essentially cater to this point of view as a matter of religious freedom, and they think anyone who has the candor to tell them otherwise is somehow stepping on their civil rights.

I don't know how to be nice when I hear this argument, because being nice tends to legitimize the underlying assumptions, which are rotten to the core. There is no civil right guaranteeing any of us the facts of our choice where science is concerned. Evolution itself is not a theoretical object, no matter how much some creationists might wish it to be true---and the Establishment Clause does not give them the right to privilege their unscientific views within a science classroom.

Now, I would never make an issue of any of the above stuff in a classroom setting, for a lot of reasons, but the most important being is that it's the wrong forum for that discussion. Students and parents have an absolute right to believe what they want and their beliefs should be treated with respect by teachers and administrators. I think the best way to do that is to be very clear about what is factual, and what isn't, and make it clear that deciding the implications of evolutionary theory is a topic best left to individual students and parents. But, if I'm going to do that, then parents and students owe it to themselves to discuss these things with the instructor first before starting a fight they are unlikely to win.



Sometimes, the answer to that question should be 'no'. I've been running down a bit lately, and I've been listening to the Doors again. I've enjoyed it, and it's been a little mind-stretching, but I'm going to take the CD's out of my car stereo and not listen to them for a long time, and certainly not at the end of the school year.

It's normal for teachers to feel drained at this time of year, when they are in the home stretch, and this has been an extra-demanding year due to the moves entailed by modernization out of an old classroom, into a trailer, and then into a new classroom. Science teachers have lots of stuff, both their own stuff and all the district materials, and it's just a lot harder for us to move than, say, a math or language arts instructor. I'm much tireder this year than past years.

Also, I'm a bit drained by various projects piling up and on top of all that, I picked up some respiratory thing (probably allergies) that has really made it difficult for me to talk. So I've been scrambling.

Also, I think I'm a bit down emotionally, as well. Many people I know are undergoing some struggles in their personal lives. One colleague lost her father suddenly. Another is going through one of those venomous divorces that, praise God, I know nothing about personally. Two others are on 'administrative leave' and are being investigated for supposed wrongdoing, but of course it's just a coincidence that they are union reps as well as teachers. And, of course, the death of another colleague, Doreena Koopman, still weighs on me.

Reviewing those sentences, I seem to have written the word 'bit' three times....so is it really a 'bit'? Probably not. I'm generally a pretty energetic and positive fellow, or at least I tend to put out quite a bit of energy into whatever I'm working on at the moment, and I just know I haven't been myself. I can feel myself coming out of it, but I've been down, and probably more than a bit down.

Now, I like pop music (ear candy) as much as the next guy, and my favorite songwriter is Elvis Costello, who has been known to write some pretty grim and gritty things. But the thing is, Costello is at heart a craftsman interested in writing compelling music, not in acting out the aspects of his life that are spiraling out of control....which brings me to Jim Morrison and the Doors. I have sort of come full-circle on the guy, and his music.

When I was in my early 20's, I chuckled whenever a Doors tune came on. Everything was so camp and over-the-top, and the band seemed clueless as to how patently ridiculous some of their 'lyrics' were: the 'lizard king' who 'wallowed in the mire' while a killer's brain was 'squirming like a toad.' I used to make up my own ridiculous couplets to 'Riders on the Storm' or 'Light My Fire' and crack myself and my brother up. So I pretty much tuned the Doors out as a musical act.

But...fast forward to the early 90's, when I found myself wandering some pretty dark places. I'll spare you the details. Suffice to say I made a lot of bad choices in terms of relationships, education and how I treated my body, and I hung with a lot of people who seemed incapable of ever making good choices in any of these areas. Some of these folk are now dead, some incapacitated, some incarcerated, many vanished from the scene, their fate unknown. From this perspective, Morrison's yowls and affected asides suddenly seemed less cartoonish, and more real. He seems to revel in corruption, and says some things that were no doubt to him cutting right down to the bone. Scary shit, and who wants to spend the rest of their life scared of other people's self-destruction? And, again, the merits of the Doors as a musical act aren't considered, being too surrounded by prejudice.

Now that I'm older and have some distance between both my 'lost and found' years, I can see that I was missing some interesting things. The poetic self-indulgence of many of their records grows out of a willingness to stretch out songs as performance art pieces, and in the spaces created there are many interesting bits of timbral magic. At their best, the Doors could evoke feelings of mystery, of musical spaces full of portents. At his best, Jim Morrison inspired the rest of the band to follow him into places other artists would not go. Sometimes the places were clownish and easy fodder for parody, as I found in my early college years. Sometimes the places were dark and scary, as I found out later.

But the great truth about Morrison's muse is that what animated him, what mattered to him, was clownish in conception and horrific in execution. He was simply a horrible child who did horrible things to himself and others who happened to be able to make great performance theatre out of the whole thing. There are few records that I admire more than 'L.A. Woman', but I don't doubt for a moment that I would have found meeting the man who sang it unpleasant. So, the Doors CD goes away for awhile. All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. Christians often get a lot of grief for being censorious where the things of the world are concerned, but as Grace Slick once said, you need to 'feed your head'.....and my head just can't 'stomach' some things right now. Heh!



It's 3:16 AM, early Sunday morning, May 10th. I'm awake.

See, there's lots of noises outside the backyard of my rental. Crackling sounds. Sirens. And when I look up, from my bed, say...that's a bit strange....there's a bright....orange....

...FIRE! (See how it outlines the trees in my backyard?)

Well, that got the old adrenaline running. I grabbed my IPhone, snapped a few shots from the backyard, then scampered into my truck and went around the corner to the gas station at Tollhouse for a better view:

Now, this is closer than I want to be to someone else's property on fire. As I speak, there are now four fire trucks lined up on Herndon and the streets is blocked off between Armstrong and Temperance. No telling how difficult that would be in the middle of the day, but virtually no one is out right now but emergency personnel:

I would say that they are earning their paycheck. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to run all of the backyard sprinklers again as a precaution.