Apparently the wonderful state of Alabama is attempting to update its science education standards to meet
19th 21st century standards. Toward this end, the Alabama Department of Education has paid a panel of experts to draft a document outlining these standards, indicating what students at each level, K-12, are expected to understand, as well as strategies for teachers to move them towards these achievement goals.
Now, I realize I’m biased, but the first thing I looked for was whether or not these poobahs included evolution in their curriculum. So, I searched the document for the word, “evolution”. It turned up only 3 times — which, you might say, is 3 times more than one would expect in Alabama, so yay. Unfortunately, all 3 mentions were in a single paragraph on page 6 (of 80-something), and were part of a mealy-mouthed and weasely attempt to dodge responsibility for letting Christer extremists impoverish education for the whole state:
“The theory of evolution by natural selection, a theory included in this document, states that natural selection provides the basis for the modern scientific explanation for the diversity of living things. Since natural selection has been observed to play a role in influencing small changes in a population, it is assumed, based on the study of artifacts, that it produces large changes, even though this has not been directly observed. Because of its importance and implications, students should understand the nature of evolutionary theories. They should learn to make distinctions among the multiple meanings of evolution, to distinguish between observations and assumptions used to draw conclusions, and to wrestle with the unanswered questions and unresolved problems still faced by evolutionary theory.”
Now, you might think from reading this paragraph that the intention was to salve the wrath of the Christers against future mentions of evolution in the curriculum. However, they never bring it up again. To their credit, evolutionary principles are brought up in many places in the document, under the heading of “heredity” or maybe “unity and diversity”. They even talk about the role of mutations in producing long-term changes in populations. From the 7th-grade standards:
“Construct an explanation from evidence to describe how genetic mutations result in harmful, beneficial, or neutral effects to the structure and function of an organism.”
So that pretty much defines evolution, huh? SO CALL IT BY ITS NAME, YOU FUCKING COWARDS.
I understand what these people are doing. They’re trying to get as much good science into this document as they can without triggering a full-court press from the backwoods hellfire revivalists that could endanger much more than just evolution in the curriculum. But coddling those people is causing serious harm to Alabama’s students — two of whom happen to be my F1’s.
You see, evolution isn’t some abstract conjecture about the origin of life or human beings or whatever. It directly affects our health in the form of the ongoing evolution of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria. But more than that, evolutionary theory and the hard math that underlies it forms the basis for all sorts of practical, presumably religiously uncontroversial things. It’s used by computer scientists and mathematicians to solve intractable problems. Engineers use it to improve mechanical designs and think outside of the boxes that we’ve made for ourselves over the centuries. Doctors use it to figure out how to tailor medicine to different populations of people with different biologies.
Evolution permeates EVERY ASPECT of modern technology and science.
In the introduction to the document by Thomas Bice, the State Superintendent of Education, we are told:
“In addition, today’s workforce depends on graduates who are prepared with necessary scientific and technological skills to address these issues. Our newly developed science standards affirm the importance of science literacy for all students.”
You can’t achieve that goal if you don’t call evolution evolution, dude. Don’t even pretend you care about these things if you can’t stand up to the jerks that have been making this state a laughing stock for a hundred years.
My desire here is simple. I want this document revised to do what the page 6 preface says: to teach evolution politely, without suggesting you “have to believe it” or whatever. My readers know that I often support the rights of Christers to be Christers and here is no different. All I ask is the word “evolution” to appear throughout this document, wherever the writers are frakking talking about evolution.
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