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Advice for Teachers and Substitutes on the Evolution Question

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posted on Apr, 4 2012 @ 01:53 AM
I subbed in a Biology class once and had to explain the evolution construct to a class filled with diverse learners. Some learners were busy hitting up the opposite sex. Other learning styles included drawing, talking, coming in late and mouthing off to the teacher. Still other intellects were challenged by the question of how to go to the bathroom and not come back. It was a veritable Utopia of unique learners.

I had one Autistic kid who was very knowledgeable. He was probably more knowledgeable than I was, given that my concentration is Mathematics and History, not Biology. He was a bit of a know-it-all, but it was still good to have him in my class.

I also had one kid who was a Creationist. He was also a good kid. Keeping him from arguing with the know-it-all who a bit of a challenge. I realized that other Substitutes might have a similar issue in explaining evolution. I think I can give advice as to how to handle the evolution question. Here is the best I can give:

1) It is not a matter of belief in God. It has nothing to do with belief in God. It is a simple matter of fact that genetic drift exists. We can credit genetic drift to "randomness," but the term "random" is really a matter of debate. Mathematicians and other scientists argue over what it is. Certain traits, along with helpful mutations, are selected by natural selection to give some organisms an advantage. Sexual selection enters in too. That is the science involved. The question of whether evolution is Divinely Guided or not is above your pay grade. The Union did not negotiate a contract for you to have to be School Sage. In no way are you to teach that there is no God in a public school, any more than you are to teach Intelligent Design.

2) Do not make it a crusade. You are a biology teacher/substitute, not a hero of knowledge. Get over yourself. If the students want to note on their tests that they do not actually believe this stuff, simply credit them for learning the narrative of modern science. It is not up to you to enforce what people believe. It is up to you to teach critical thinking and you have done it. They still have to answer correctly even if they put a Signing Statement on their tests. Remember that the elites have signing statements so why shouldn't we be able to when coerced in to writing or signing? Public education is about coercion, however justified we might believe it is. Put yourself in their shoes and accept that they have independent minds with the same freedom you want for yourself.

3) Darwin did not know everything. A lot of the right-wing Victorian capitalist assumptions of his time found their way in to his thinking. Competition is not the real key to Life. Later advances in evolutionary biology had to correct some of that. Understanding that the selfish gene does not entirely explain evolution can restore the sense of the sacred to one's thinking without jettisoning evolution.

4) If you are a believer in God, Gaia, the Absolute, in the Anthropic Principle, or any kind of spiritual belief, you can share that and say you have no problem reconciling that with Evolution. In fact, believers in Evolution might even make better Christians than Fundamentalists because religious leftists emphasize the moral code and not simply that all one has to do is to believe and one is saved. (Maybe avoid sharing that one)

5) Remember that conservative groups are encouraging the whole evolution question because their REAL target is not evolution. It is the global warming issue, which threatens corporate interests. The leaders of these groups are the 1% who are definitely Darwinists---Social Darwinists. The religion thing is simply a tool to set the stage for what they really want. Fight the real battle in your own mind, not the shill battle. Do not be a tool for them getting what they want by over-reaching and attacking when simple explanations suffice. You can easily prove global warming with a good classroom experiment. It is easier to prove than evolution!

If you teach Sunday school, where you can discuss religion, then tell the kids that real Christians and real spiritual people do not shill for corporate America. Do so. Tell students that Creationists and Evolutionists can both agree on the need to protect the environment. In fact, Creationists should consider it blasphemy to cause any species to go extinct.

6) Teach that science is not a body of facts. It is a way of thinking.

7) Do not alienate parents. One biology teacher I subbed for had all kinds of sex education agendas. A little too weird for adults to be delving in to teenage fantasies. I think that young people should be able to safely feel good about their bodies without overly eager sex education teachers and clergy people both having to comment about it all of the time.

One thing to note. Conservatives have managed to make it seem as though they represent "real American values," religion among those values. I fault the progressives in this country for allowing the right to change the subject from the 1% and 99% to all kinds of cultural and religious issues. Pledge of Allegiance? Free people don't swear allegiance to a symbol, certainly not if coerced. Gay marriage? It is a complex issue, one that perhaps needs to be considered from the standpoint of whether we should casually change definitions of "mother" and "father," but Republican respect for family is clearly one that does not help working families. It does not help children already born. The Culture War is really a war of two different ways of waging war against children, and of exalting the great idol called the American Way of Life.

Finally, Dawkins and Santorum are two different ways of legitimizing the 1%. We have selfish genes and selfish theology. I would avoid taking either side. Just teach evolution as the best interpretation we have of the biological data. Other explanations involve magic and mystery, neither of which have a place in biology class.

Finally, tell the kids that it was religious dissenters like the Baptists and Quakers who WANTED the separation of church and state. They wanted the protection of their faiths against state churches. State churches stick burning things in to us that go "ow!" A lot of the history of American Protestantism was allowed to flourish because of the divorce between church and state. Creationism in schools would undo the barrier that protects the church every bit as much as it protects the state.

Good luck teaching. And remember, avoid the Administration as much as possible. Survive. Good luck.

posted on Apr, 4 2012 @ 02:08 AM

7) Do not alienate parents.

I can't stress this point enough.

Parents already feel alienated from the teachers as the times are changing. Parents are more concerned with the curriculum and "surprises" we come across in these schools.

We as parents would love to work with the teachers closer but most teachers are overwhelmed already. Parents... have patients with them, Teachers.... try to understand what it's like from our end.

Many parents I know are ready to begin home schooling.

posted on Apr, 4 2012 @ 01:14 PM
reply to post by JibbyJedi

I support home schooling, particularly given the militarization of schools. You know, liberal parents support home schooling also. It is a strange little secret. Home schooling actually began among hippies.

posted on Apr, 4 2012 @ 05:52 PM
I agree with a lot of what you said. It's true that evolution should be taught as the science it is, and that religion or opinions on god should be kept out of the classroom, but I don't consider science a way of thinking. I see it as a way of gathering facts and learning how things work. As long as students understand the scientific method, they'll understand the importance of science. I know I was taught the scientific method in middle school at the latest, but perhaps it should be introduced earlier?

You can easily prove global warming with a good classroom experiment. It is easier to prove than evolution!
Global warming is relative depending on how far back you go in earth's climate history. If you go back around 3 million years, the earth was a lot hotter than it is today. There were no glaciers in Antarctica. We've been in an ice age for the past 2.5 million years. We're still in it now, and all in all it's been getting cooler throughout this ice age. We are in an interglacial period(period of warmth) that began around 10,000 years ago, and compared to the last one (around 120,000 years ago), it is cooler now. So the only accuracy to the term 'global warming' is that its warmer than its been in the past 5000 years. In the macrocosm, the earth has been bouncing between cool and warm periods for quite a while. Part of me wonders if that is just a natural cycle or if is governed by impact events and other disasters.
edit on 4-4-2012 by Barcs because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 4 2012 @ 08:46 PM
reply to post by Barcs

The fact that CO2 contributes to warming can be directly tested. Just put a plant in a box that traps CO2 and have another box with the same controls (heat, light, water, et al). The box with the plant will be cooler than the other box due to it having less CO2. Later, try to adjust for the shade of the plant by a little tweaking to make conditions truly as equal as possible, so that no one can suggest that the the shade of the plant cooled the box with the plant. You will directly confirm global warming. More CO2=warming.

As for religion, I think that there should be a class on world religions. Students should be able to doubt science, and argue for their beliefs in that class. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Rastafarians, Buddhists, Gaians and Thugee students should all have the right to add their voices. It should be a humanities class, not a science class. I would support it. Creationism should be discussed in that class, with the teacher encouraging students on HOW to think and not WHAT to think.

posted on Apr, 4 2012 @ 09:15 PM
I sub a lot and I just steer clear of any controversy. Honestly, if I wanted the drama of having to deal with the Parents and their Kids beliefs and how they clash with the facts I'd go ahead and get certified. Subbing is the beautiful position in between.

I don't have to try and resolve issues as they expect Teachers to. I am the sub I can just send the first two trouble makers to the office the rest chill after that. Then we watch the movie or they read or whatever and I get my 80 bucks.

I hardly ever even get a lesson plan other than a one liner - have them read pages whatever and do the work-sheet. Or play this movie...

Subbing is usually last minute for me... and the teachers; thus no real plans.

posted on Apr, 5 2012 @ 06:08 AM
The Dawkins "Selfish Gene" had nothing to do with selfishness. It was a personification of how genes get passed on.

Also, He's against Social Darwinism, he doesn't Legitimize the 1% in that sense.

Maybe you knew both of those already, however, the wording you used implied those two misunderstandings. I'm just adding some clarification, in case you were mistaken, or if anyone else got the wrong message out of those bits.


I have many times written (for example in the first chapter of A Devil's Chaplain) that I am a passionate Darwinian when it comes to the science of how life has actually evolved, but a passionate ANTI-Darwinian when it comes to the politics of how humans ought to behave. I have several times said that a society based on Darwinian principles would be a very unpleasant society in which to live. I have several times said, starting at the beginning of my very first book, The Selfish Gene, that we should learn to understand natural selection, so that we can oppose any tendency to apply it to human politics. Darwin himself said the same thing, in various different ways. So did his great friend and champion Thomas Henry Huxley.

posted on Apr, 5 2012 @ 08:07 AM

Originally posted by EarthEvolves
reply to post by Barcs

The fact that CO2 contributes to warming can be directly tested. Just put a plant in a box that traps CO2 and have another box with the same controls (heat, light, water, et al). The box with the plant will be cooler than the other box due to it having less CO2. Later, try to adjust for the shade of the plant by a little tweaking to make conditions truly as equal as possible, so that no one can suggest that the the shade of the plant cooled the box with the plant. You will directly confirm global warming. More CO2=warming.

I wasn't disputing that CO2 is directly correlated with global temperature, just that the earth is not warming, it's cooling when looking at the big picture.

As for religion, I think that there should be a class on world religions. Students should be able to doubt science, and argue for their beliefs in that class.

Why would they doubt science in a world religions class, a class that has nothing to do with science? That is a poor, unlogical way of thinking and it should NOT be taught to kids. If they have doubts about science, it should be brought up in a science class, so they can be answered with scientific knowledge and facts rather than guesswork that justifies personal faith. If they have doubts, try to duplicate the experiments, or read the research. You can't really teach how to think in a religion class. You can only present various possibilities and draw an opinion on them. There is no critical thinking or facts involved. I wouldn't be against a class like that, but it needs to be separate from science completely, and should be reinforced that everything taught in the class is merely personal belief and not fact based. A big problem with society is that too many parents teach their kids that their religion is absolute fact and the only way to live, and for the large majority it sticks. School should be about objective knowledge and facts, unless it is presented as pure hypothetical.

posted on Apr, 5 2012 @ 01:20 PM
reply to post by Barcs

CO2 traps heat, but that does not automatically mean "warming." It could mean climactic instability.

The point is the we are screwing it up for our corporate masters and whoever runs them.

posted on Apr, 6 2012 @ 12:07 PM
Mirror post from something I posted on another thread. I think it fits here too:

I understand that there is a campaign among Creationists to encourage students to challenge evolution in biology class. Fair enough. That is freedom of thought.

I think that a similar campaign should be waged in Churches, Synagogues, and even Mosques if the danger is not too great. The campaign should be, "Why can't I be a religious believer and believe in Evolution at the same time?" It should be just as poignant. Biological facts should be brought out and the Sunday School teacher should be forced to address them just as biology teachers are forced to address religion. The existence of fossils in neatly arranged geological layers must be addressed by people who think that the planet is only a few thousand years old.

The idea of challenging science teachers is fair, and actually encourages free thinking. I also think that Sunday School teachers should face the same challenge. Again, the central question, "Why am I a bad Jew/Christian/Muslim if I accept that the Earth is billions of years old? Why can I not believe in God and praise Creator for the wonders of Nature? How are you really a better believer than me?" Call them on the hypocrisies and contradictions of the behavior of the clergy, the abuse scandals and the like. Call them on the fact that western democracy became more advanced in the eighteenth century when the power of the clergy was limited by Enlightenment thinking and Protestant Anti-Establishmentism. DO NOT ENGAGE IN THIS CHALLENGE IF YOUR LIFE MIGHT BE IN DANGER. This is especially poignant if you live in a peace loving multi-cultural Middle Eastern nation that might kill you.

Also, have consideration for your parents who work hard to support you. Ask them as questions that adults have to answer, not as challenges. Make it a point to declare that you consider yourself a Christian (or other type of believer). Make it a point that you follow the moral law of Hillel, Jesus, or whoever your religion follows. I think that it is fair for Creationists to be able to challenge authority. I agree. I think that the challenge needs to be addressed---and returned.

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