[Taxacom] Evolution Education

John Grehan jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
Fri Feb 4 21:56:44 CST 2011

I can sympathize with the comments about the quality of (US) education
in general (I recall that there was a book called 'Bread and Circuses'
or something like that, about university education), and perhaps this
makes more of my point about not worrying about teaching evolution. Its
not a matter of 'surrender' as it is with not bothering with an
unproductive endeavor that is focused more on having future members of
society parrot this or that 'proof' of evolution rather than having any
appreciation of the science of evolution. Just reiterating the same
tired old arguments will not cut it. After all, Darwin had the same kind
of information on fossils, patterns of inheritance, homologies between
organisms that we do now, but it was not these things that convinced him
to take evolution seriously and so why suppose it necessarily will for
anyone now?

John Grehan 

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
[mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of R J Ferry
Sent: Friday, February 04, 2011 11:39 AM
To: Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: [Taxacom] Evolution Education

Fri-04Feb11/1038 local

Like Mark, I tend to lurk much and post little. However, recent
opinion(s) about the possible advisability of leaving the teaching of
evolution out of the primary and secondary school systems strikes me
that it would be a giant step backward! I am both a retired military and
a retired public school teacher with some college teaching as well. 
Consider this analogy: it's the easiest thing in the world to stop a war
at any time, all one side has to do is surrender! That would not only
delight rabid fundamentalists of all stripes, but would inspire them to
continue and expand their personal jihad aggressions against science in
general and scientist in particular! I taught biology (and other
science) for years, and I think many (perhaps even /most/) primary and
secondary teachers tend to "miss the boat" as they approach "teaching

Religion, indeed /all/ religions begin with "who did it" and soon
progress to what your conduct should be. Science is _not_ out to answer
the "whodunit" question! Science is trying (hopefully with the best and
most dispassionate logic we can muster) to tell _how it was done_. 
There's a giant-step gap between "whodunit" and "how it was done!" As we
teach natural history, the devout can point to the magnificence of The
Creator and the job He/She/They have done /and are continuing to do/. 
The skeptic can continue to question and study! Evolution is what's
happened and what's continuing to happen,...don't "teach evolution," 
just teach the facts as best we've been able to reason them out.

Mark and I are, I'm sure, in wholehearted agreement that science
teaching in the primary grades is practically non-existent, and at the
secondary level is not much different! However, there is a lot of
mis-teaching due to poor educational background of the ones doing the
teaching! The curriculum tends to be whatever Holt Rinehart and Somebody
sells to the state for its school systems. It may have changed recently,
but in the not distant past an elementary teacher in Texas was
"certified" to teach science with no more than ten semester hours of
undergrad science credits. Remember something: "certification" is not a
pedigree; it's like a dog license that "certifies" an individual to run
the educational streets!

What could we use? What we could use is (as John Foster Dulles put it
about US foreign policy years ago) and "agonizing reappraisal" of /what
and how/ we teach, and the legislative teeth to put it in operation! 
More and more, I advocate getting rid of "teacher's colleges" because
they're little more than an educational union group governing being
"certified" to be a teacher,...a principal,...a
superintendent,...counselor,...on and on! Picture the M.D. who decides
to take a secondary school job teaching chemistry,...because he doesn't
have the required education courses, he's hired at 85% of the B.S. 
degree salary until he makes up his "educational deficiencies." As
yourselves why! Ask your state legislatures: they have the power to run
the school systems.

I could go on and on, but another version of the short story is simply
this: instead of ranting "outside the door," how many of us are willing
to lay aside our bean counting and philosophizing for a few days
periodically and /go into the public school system /and /try to help/
the local science teacher who's in the blackboard jungle and is already
overburdened with paperwork and would really welcome the "specialist" 
help in whatever your field is? ...and, by the way, do it without pay;
do it to help a teacher in need!

The years I taught were some of the happiest in my several decades of
this life. The kids were magnificent,...the administrations generally
wanted to concentrate on football, bands, and other forms of public
entertainment because it brought in "local funds." University
teacher/researchers become almost slaves to the "what's the funding" 
game,...of which the institution takes a big bite "for the use of their
facilities" which usually means building another building and naming it
after themselves. Meanwhile, what comes to mind when you hear a
university's name? Yep! Football. That event where they make the
students move their cars out of the state-owned parking spot they're
paying rent to the university for,...so the university can rent it for
the football fans and pocket the money. Talk about your detailed
scams,...By the way, who makes the big bucks at the university
level,...the scientist or the football coach? Where's our local and
national emphasis? It's that way all over the US. We educate to play! In
India, China, Mexico (just to note a few), they educate to work. We used
to say, "Goodbye John, work hard!" Now it's more common to say, "Goodbye
John, take it easy." Notice the difference in a national attitude?

I've soap-boxed too long. It's time I took Will Rogers advice: "Never
pass up a good chance to shut up!" I'll close and await the blasts of
the return flame war.

Bob Ferry, PhD

Victoria, Texas,... where currently it's freezing cold,besides, I've
orchids to care for and a library of books to dig into.


Taxacom Mailing List
Taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu

The Taxacom archive going back to 1992 may be searched with either of
these methods:

(1) http://taxacom.markmail.org

Or (2) a Google search specified as:
site:mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom  your search terms here

More information about the Taxacom mailing list