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
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.