Benefits of teaching the “controversy”?

| 162 Comments

There’s an interesting op-ed on teaching evolution in today’s edition of the International Herald Tribune. The opinion piece is written by Michael Balter, and suggests that, “The best way to teach the theory of evolution is to teach this contentious history.” To support this position, Balter points to a 2005 study by Steven Verhey that was published in the November, 2005 issue of BioScience, that suggested that creationist students were more likely to change their views if the curriculum directly addressed creationist objections to evolution.

Balter has been advocating this position for a while now, and his views have been discussed at The Panda’s Thumb before now. Still, the position appears to be at least superficially reasonable, so it’s probably worth another quick look.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

162 Comments

Since a fair number of primary public school teachers (perhaps a smaller percentage of science teachers, but hardly a low enough percentage) are sympathetic to creationism and ID, I am at a loss to see how “teaching both” would actually work to the advantage of science. And as far as I know, the teachers who would like to contrast science with pseudosciences like ID are allowed to do so, but I suspect that even those teachers would like to do so would not do it, due to likely backlash from parents.

Well maybe Balter thinks that we can just start out with fresh new teachers and parents committed to science in a way that past ones have not been. Just set up the situation, Balter, and I’ll go for your recommendations.

Until then I’d try to just get evolution into the curricula in many places. I guess ol’ Balter thinks that evolution teaching is happening most everywhere, but to little or no effect, and he wants to change the teaching that in fact is not occurring in many cases.

And even if he could give us good solid teaching of evolution nearly everywhere, does he really think that beating up on religion would be allowed? Sure, they tell us that ID isn’t religion, but Behe explicitly states now that ID points to something “beyond the natural”, and if ID were getting picked on by us virtually all of them would suddenly recognize that ID is religious and would sue to prevent our contrasting ID to science. I rather suspect they’d make a really good case for ID being religious.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

I think there’s a good point here. I’ve used Literal Creationist arguments myself as a jumping off point to 1) mollify students that they are taken seriously, 2) indicate there are many ways to approach this issue, but they need to learn the scientific way, and 3) show how science adequately responds to the objections. So teaching the controversy can be good- as long as it’s being taught as the history of objections to evolution, and this is how science has shown them to be false or wanting. Too often the meaning of “teach the controversy” is that one presents both sides equally. But if it means showing what the Literal Creationists have said, in order to help students come from one point to another, and then showing how the evidence has accumulated- this seems to be eminently reasonable and a way to help students go through the same process that science has gone through in the last 150 years.

I think people are basically on target here with their skepticism. As a pedagogical device for teaching science, it can be helpful to show how currently value-free misconceptions (the ether, geocentrism, blood-letting, N-Rays) were corrected through the proper application of the scientific method.

But as we all surely know inside out here, creationism is not a quaint long-forgotten scientific error, but rather a current virulent political program that regards the scientific method as irrelevant to achieving utterly nonscientific social goals.

Science might regard creationist claims as falsifiable (and falsified) statements about objective testable reality, but creationists aren’t fighting on that playing field. They are fighting to make Jesus primary in every aspect of our lives, and how well this goal is accomplished is the ONLY thing that matters. Not facts or evidence or tests. Not honesty or logic.

So we’d see two approaches applied in high schools. The first (by teachers of real biology) would probably be to simply avoid the subject altogether, to avoid religious arguments in science class and wrathful parents with torches and pitchforks - a guaranteed result of showing how science has “corrected creationist error”. The second (by creationists) would be to use this reasonable-sounding proposal as carte blanche to preach the Gospel Of Jesus Christ in science class, while the actual science gets no classroom time.

The Leonard case (at OSU) illustrated that even tenured university professors, IF they are creationists, are willing to game the system and sacrifice their employer’s reputation for Jesus if they can get away with it. And we expect more integrity in high schools? Why?

I’ve been watching the Creationism/ID movement since the mid 1970s and I am convinced that it is primarily a political movement pushing a mean-spirited sectarian agenda. Most of the major advocates of this movement make their living doing this, and they appear to be paid well for their efforts. They have also managed to run up the costs of education in every district they have bullied.

There is no advantage whatsoever to using up class time to cover material that would only encourage these idiots to continue conning people while making big money doing it. We would be participating in an enabling activity that keeps them going at our expense. Administrators in public schools are also part of the problem because so many of them prefer to use appeasement to head off these sectarian activists when they come in to complain. Better to cut Creationist/ID activism off at every opportunity and hit them in their pocketbooks.

One of the biggest services that Panda’s Thumb and Talk Origins provide is to keep these parasites under the microscope and to expose every sleazy twitch of their contorted reasoning. This is much more effective than trying to do it in a public school classroom where teachers are already overextended and stressed by a myriad of tasks that are basically unrelated to the subject matter in the class. More public school teachers should be made aware of the material on these sites so they can simply refer student questions to the excellent resources put together by many talented people.

Perhaps a better way would be to take the agenda out of the science. Just as a religious agenda pulls the ID train, an atheist agenda pulls the Dawkins train. But evolution can be upheld by theists and atheists. Problems occur when agendas lead science.

You mean agendas like teaching kids the truth and keeping religious indoctrination out of public schools?

Also, the atheist agenda may pull the “Dawkins train,” but that’s different from the science train or the education train.

Glen Davidson Wrote:

Since a fair number of primary public school teachers (perhaps a smaller percentage of science teachers, but hardly a low enough percentage) are sympathetic to creationism and ID, I am at a loss to see how “teaching both” would actually work to the advantage of science. And as far as I know, the teachers who would like to contrast science with pseudosciences like ID are allowed to do so, but I suspect that even those teachers would like to do so would not do it, due to likely backlash from parents.

Exactly. That was my main disagreement with people who thought Ohio’s now-defunct “critical analysis” lesson plan could perhaps be fixed up into real critical analysis of both evolutionary theory and ID/creationism. Any actual science-based comparison of the alternatives is going to make creationID look very, very bad, and any teacher who actively accomplishes that is going to get slaughtered by angry parents and administrators.

Plus, from a constitutional point of view, they have some cause for that. Creationism and ID are very relevant to the politics of science, but totally irrelevant to science itself. When a teacher brings up creationID in a science class, a Christian student could legitimately feel singled out–why isn’t the teacher pointing out the problems with Hindu or Norse mythical history?

In a history/politics/philosophy of science class, on the other hand, a teacher could clearly bring it up as an example of an influential modern politicoreligious movement. They’d probably still face a community backlash, though.

Creationism and ID are very relevant to the politics of science, but totally irrelevant to science itself.

But creationism is at least tangentially relevant to the history of evolution, which is relevant to its science. In particular, I remember that when I learned about evolution in High School, the teacher wove this very nice story about Charles Darwin, the Beagle’s voyage, finches, and in general how the theory came together. It was simply impossible to leave out the theory’s historical context, a big part of it being YEC and other good ideas of the time. I wonder if today the same story would elicit a discussion of ID anyway? In which case teachers knowledgeable about the “controversy” would be far more helpful than those who simply hushed it up.

I mean, what percentage of high school science teachers would use the invitation to discuss ID to actually promote ID? Am I being optimistic if I think it’s only a small minority?

GuyeFaux — Unfortunately, yes you are. Although it depends on the part of the country, I suppose…

“No IDiocy in science classes!”

and his views have been discussed at The Panda’s Thumb before now

indeed they have, and a clear majority was NOT in favor of his position; there was much discussion and much debate.

so, unless there is something NEW to Balter’s arguments, which then, as now, are not really based on the study by Verhey, I can only wonder what the point of bringing it up again is.

discussing Verhey is discussing Verhey. Balter’s ideas are different, and really not well informed.

the two issues should be separated, not lumped.

”…the position appears to be at least superficially reasonable”

Superficially reasonable is right.

To officially deem ID (or YEC or astrology or …) as being of sufficient intellectual merit to make academic discussion valuable to any significant degree is to implicitly confer unjustifiable credibility on the topic.

Students, who by their very definition are not experienced or fully informed about the objects of their study, have no need to be gratuitously exposed to fallacies they are not yet equipped to recognize on their own.

The opposition, of course, intends that very thing - for credulous minds to be fed noncredible assertions before they’re capable of noticing those same assertions’ absence of credibility… the same rationale is behind brainwashing children into religious dogma; the likelihood of said dogma to be credible to an adult with no previous exposure to it is small indeed.

- - - - -

Charles Norris -

“…as a religious agenda pulls the ID train, an atheist agenda pulls the Dawkins train.”

Kind of you, I’m sure, to offer this observation in a form which would suggest that it is indisputable fact, when it is of course actually nothing of the sort.

Few rhetorical devices are more insidious than cultivating the erroneous perception of ‘even-handed’ and ‘balanced’ treatment of an issue where the distribution of supporting evidence is far from symmetrical. See ‘teaching the controversy’ for a cogent exemplar of this intellectually dishonest stratagem.

We’re to be misled into arguments for and against the atheist nature of the so-called Dawkins agenda. Quite spurious, presupposing as it does that such a Dawkins-related phenomenon as an “agenda” actually exists, in the face of overwhelming evidence, empirical and other, to the contrary.

If the ‘Dawkins train,’ as you would have it, is ‘pulled’ by anything, it would appear to be by a transparent commitment to the diligent use of rationality in pursuit of solutions to our epistemological shortcomings. The implication that the disinterested search for an accurate model of reality is no more than a disingenuous attempt to garner support for a trivial partisan ideology is insupportable humbug.

Or if you’d rather the long story > short, the act of trying to reduce the promotion of rational thought as the tool of choice for seeking the nature of reality to the petit, ultimately trivial level of merely promoting popular acceptance of superstitious dogma is nothing more than intellectual treason.

Then again, perhaps not, as the case may be. Wouldn’t care to sound too dogmatic.

I’m pretty much in agreement with the idea that setting up creationist straw men and then showing what’s wrong with them is a great way to teach what evolution really says… but an even remotely realistic assessment would immediately show that this approach is neither appropriate for a public school setting, nor could it even actually correctly work the way Mr. Balter is intending in such an environment.

But creationism is at least tangentially relevant to the history of evolution, which is relevant to its science. In particular, I remember that when I learned about evolution in High School, the teacher wove this very nice story about Charles Darwin, the Beagle’s voyage, finches, and in general how the theory came together. It was simply impossible to leave out the theory’s historical context, a big part of it being YEC and other good ideas of the time. I wonder if today the same story would elicit a discussion of ID anyway? In which case teachers knowledgeable about the “controversy” would be far more helpful than those who simply hushed it up.

Well that would have been interesting 100 years ago, WHY is it still seriously being discussed in the most advanced country in the world?

ID and all its forms of religious apologetics including that said countries President claiming conversations going on in his head are with a g$d indicates not an education problem but a critical mass of national insanity.

The fact that an opinion writer, who in the past just reprinted (spell checked presumably) a DI press release, leaves nothing to the imagination, particularly his.

Critical thinking? Sure, but where do you start, after the horse has Baltered?

Balter’s opinions are worth the same critical assessment he gave to the reprinted ID press release; that is nil.

He has been shown to be a mere pawn of the DI. Why is he getting warmed over again? The DI are desperate and Balter hasn’t learned to think…some things never change.

Fortunately ID CAN be discussed as a religious apologetic along with Islamic Jihad, female genital mutilation, death cults, or the barmy idea of a literal and objective hell in any class but science. It can be discussed and should be discussed in sociology; as a modern example of magical thinking and social engineering. Or politics/History; examining the separation of church and state.

That’s something Balter wouldn’t dare print.

Thankfully the political tide has turned, the BS is flowing out to sea, for the moment at least. Balter will have to wait until the next BS high tide to go for a swim.

The theocratic pseudoscience underworld cannot make the claim that ID, which has been tested by the SCotUS and found to be a religion, CAN be critically examined and compared to mythologies and other cults.

Print that Balter

bah ..last sentence has obvious grammer error.

The theocratic pseudoscience underworld CANNOT make the claim that ID, which has been tested by the SCotUS and found to be a religion,cannot be critically examined and compared to mythologies and other cults.(which is its educational catagory)

Gaius Baltar just wants to give us over to the Cylons!

oh, wait, wrong story?

Guyfaux has made an excellent point.

I taught high school physics and mathematics quite a while ago, before Sagan’s Cosmos. The physics curriculum I preferred, called Harvard Project Physics, made quite a point of teaching the Ptolemaic view of the solar system and universe, and then following the development of astronomical thought up through Kepler, Brahe, Galileo and on up through Einstein and the modern era. In my opinion, this approach teaches the scientific method and process much better than a straight teaching of astronomy and physics as we currently know them. It’s important to understand the thread of logic that connects all the various observations with our evolving ways of understanding them.

Also IMHO, the “take no prisoners” approach to fighting ID in the schools is simply unscientific. We won’t win the battle until legions of schoolkids have been walked or find their own way through the arguments that lead so inexorably to our current models, however they may have been updated in the meantime.

If i were a biology teacher, I’d totally address the topic of ID/creationism. However, I would also expect the parents to come after me with pitchforks for attacking their religious views. Apparently, they only want you to say nice things about their religion in science class.

I’m glad to see my piece discussed on the Panda’s Thumb, which is always an honor. Since the link to our extensive and heated debate after my October 2005 Los Angeles Times piece is provided, I don’t think it is useful for me to enter into the same debate here. It is nice to see that some of the usual suspects, such as Toejam and k.e., are still alive and kicking and fighting the good fight.

That debate did not change my views, and the only question I would pose here is: What do pro-evolution activists intend to do about the fact that the majority of Americans, including American school kids, do not think the theory of evolution is the best explanation for life’s complexity? What is their plan to change this? Keeping creationism out of the classroom is not doing the job, so what will?

To Michael Balter;

Creationism and ID are not kept out of the classrooms - they permeate our society, vestiges of religious ideas that just won’t go quietly. You are fighting a dearly held belief system that is almost universally accepted and promoted within our society for no other reason than simple peer pressure.

That debate did not change my views, and the only question I would pose here is: What do pro-evolution activists intend to do about the fact that the majority of Americans, including American school kids, do not think the theory of evolution is the best explanation for life’s complexity? What is their plan to change this? Keeping creationism out of the classroom is not doing the job, so what will?

your views, were and are unchangeable, and still wrong.

as you say, there really is NO reason to rehash them at this point.

NSF, NAAS, and every scientific organization in the US disagrees with you.

…and yet you still don’t get why.

don’t forget that nobody thought it a bad idea to explore comparative religion and philosophy at the collegiate level. It’s still a horrid idea for secondary school education.

conclusion can only be you’re a fool with an agenda.

good luck with that.

I feel sorry for Mike that he chose such a non-issue to rehash.

…oh and guyfeux is totally wrong to consider creationism as a tangent and thus a valid topic of a science class.

obviously, in the same vein, we should tangentially consider the impact of astrology on astronomy.

it’s a patently ridiculous argument.

Moreover, “creationism” as it currently stands is a far more recent phenomenon than the idea of the genesis story itself. Or have you forgotten the roots of the creationism movement in america? came LONG after Darwin, that’s for sure.

can’t we put this idiocy to rest?

“can’t we put this idiocy to rest?”–Toejam.

It doesn’t look like it, since people here seem to want to discuss it. I did not post the IHT piece here, Toejam! However, since we have had an extensive discussion of it here before, I will restrict the rest of my blogging on this subject to The Questionable Authority site. Toejam’s beef would appear to be with newspaper editors who think that my opinion is worth airing and bloggers who think it is worth discussing. Nobody is forcing them.

Same to you Michael.

That debate did not change my views, and the only question I would pose here is: What do pro-evolution activists intend to do about the fact that the majority of Americans, including American school kids, do not think the theory of evolution is the best explanation for life’s complexity? What is their plan to change this? Keeping creationism out of the classroom is not doing the job, so what will?

Suggest people who profess to be adults pull their heads out of their collective asses and call creationism what it is, legalized schizophrenia?

That, a cold bucket of water.

Just a thought.

That, and a cold bucket of water..obviously

Discussing bad science in the context of a modern science class:

“In the old days they used to believe the world was flat. It’s wrong of course, as sailors figured out, and then we invented the sattelite.”

“But sir, what about ID?”

“ID is a load of rubbish.”

That’d about do it. ID is a recent concept and was designed as a con anyway. Teaching a little historical perspective on science is one thing, but to teach about the so-called ‘controversy’ in science class wastes time that could be used to teach proper science. If people wanna know about the ‘controversy’ then leave it for social studies class or something. In a science class it is just a waste of time.

What is their plan to change this? Keeping creationism out of the classroom is not doing the job, so what will?

Teach science. Teach evolution, which has for many decades been kept out of schools by people pushing creationism/ID. In fact, that’s one of their goals in pushing their non-science; it’s a form of working the refs which has been quite effective. That’s why there are so many people who don’t understand the first thing about evolution, and so oppose its teaching in schools.

The controversy is not a science controversy, but a political one. The science of creationism/ID vs. evolution has been settled for over a hundred years.

The physics curriculum I preferred, called Harvard Project Physics, made quite a point of teaching the Ptolemaic view of the solar system and universe, and then following the development of astronomical thought up through Kepler, Brahe, Galileo and on up through Einstein and the modern era.

It is a good approach. When we studied evolution, it too started with a historical overview on creationism, spontaneous generation, fossils, deep time, Lamarck, Darwin and Mendel.

However, nobody went into such irrelevant details as OEC/YEC/ID and their objections to evolution. Nor would I expect an astronomic course to detail historical flat earthers and their objections to a round earth.

What I would expect the courses to treat are the positive evidence and tests for each theory.

“Teach science. Teach evolution, which has for many decades been kept out of schools by people pushing creationism/ID. In fact, that’s one of their goals in pushing their non-science; it’s a form of working the refs which has been quite effective. That’s why there are so many people who don’t understand the first thing about evolution, and so oppose its teaching in schools.”

One step further: teach All life sciences from an evolutionary platform. Don’t treat evolution as a “unit” that can be skipped or discarded if time is tight.( or someone gets their panties in a wad) Every topic should be approached from this paradigm, and connections drawn between topics throughout the course. Science is taught in such fragmented ways, mainly because we insist on compartmentalizing not only the disciplines but the topics within disciplines. This is what made the Harvard Physics curriculum so interesting and different.

Moreover, “creationism” as it currently stands is a far more recent phenomenon than the idea of the genesis story itself. Or have you forgotten the roots of the creationism movement in america? came LONG after Darwin, that’s for sure.

Agreed here. When I said YEC was discussed, I did not mean its current, anti-evolution incarnation. Even before Darwin, people have dug up bones of what appeared to be long-extinct species, which displaced somewhat the popular view. And that I thought was useful, since you really got into the strength of the evidence between two conjectures.

The proper teaching of evolution and the historical developments of our current scientific understandings have been vigorously opposed by the Creationist/ID crowd for a very long time.

Many here will also remember the fundamentalist response to BSCS, PSSC, Harvard Project Physics, all of which were excellent improvements to the high school science curriculum. Remember the Grablers in Texas and their effects on the content of biology textbooks? Statewide textbook adoption procedures in Texas, California, and other large states kept evolution out of the classroom because publishers didn’t want the include topics that would cause controversy and reduce sales. The effects are still with us today.

The Creationist/ID political crowd has always treated science as an interloper and usurper of their own imagined right to determine what the rest of us know and believe. From watching their preachers and political activities over the years, I suspect that the root of their distain is basically a jealous bigotry. Science is treated like a competing religion encroaching on their territory. Anything that deals with the historical development of science is a trigger for the political activists in this crowd to start complaining and threatening. In recent years, their approach has evolved (ironically), and they have become slicker in their pitches, but the underlying bigotry and motivations are still there.

I have taught physics and math to bright high students in advanced science and math programs. I have never encountered a problem with these students or their parents when I presented some of the twists and turns in the historical development of science. But I think teachers in the public schools should not have to compromise their professional integrity and responsibilities if they are confronted with creationist/ID activists. The teachers in Dover did the right thing in opposing the pressure their administrators and school board members placed on them.

And if there is evidence for this, then a curriculum that requires teachers to compare and contrast evolutionary and creationist materials in class could hardly make things worse, since it is unlikely that creationist biology teachers are teaching evolution effectively anyway.

So now you’re justifying a radical policy change merely by insisting that it can’t make things worse? Is that the best, most stunning endorsement you can offer for your proposed solution?

Even if the premise is true, the conclusion does not follow from the premise. Just because a situation is bad, does not in itself prove that a particular proposed solution can “hardly make things worse.”

Besides, if your propsed solution can’t make things worse, how can you be sure it can make things better?

And here’s something else you haven’t thought through: if creationism is, as you have admitted, a religious doctrine, then why should only one religion’s doctrine get shoewhorned into biology classes? Christians aren’t the only ones with a non-scientific creation story; why not get the Norse and Native American versions of “creation science” in as well? (The Norse version is really cool and dramatic! More fraught, as Douglas Adams would say.)

I am talking about elitism that says that only well off students in charter schools and their teachers are capable of handling these complex issues and that public schools are not, which is what Gwen said…

The point here is that you called Gwen “elitist” without even pretending to address the actual substance of what she said. You were avoiding the central issue then, and you’re avoiding it now. You can hang around, like a fart in a Russian space station, as long as you want, but you’re still running away from reality, and hiding behind a lot of diversionary name-calling.

Why are you debating with me? Because whether my ideas are right, wrong, stupid, or whether I am a dupe of the creationists—whatever—I have managed to get them published in two major publications with more than a million readers between them, the Los Angeles Times and the International Herald Tribune…

I’m sure Ann Coulter and Noam Chomsky can make a similar boast.

And the fact that you’re using the argument itself as proof of “victory,” only proves that you know you’ve lost the argument, and can’t pretend to have won any other way.

PS: if we’re the ones feeling threatened by your ideas, why are you the one running away from our responses?

Flint, Raging Bee, and others have done a good job stripping back Michael Balter’s journalist facade. I suspect members of the schools of journalism would be raising their eyebrows over the genuineness of his credentials.

If he really wanted to get at the realities of this matter, he wouldn’t be doing it sitting on his ass debating with people on the internet. He would be spending quite a few years of his life “living among the natives” in a wide variety of circumstances. He would be living with the same crap that teachers put up with day after day for years. It is obvious to those of us who have immersed ourselves in this world that he is blowing smoke and looking pretty pathetic.

I suppose he has the right to make a fool of himself in the eyes of people who actually know what is going on, but apparently he feels it worth price he pays to be a shill for the creationist crowd and getting some imagined fame by publishing in widely circulated newspapers. Rush Limbaugh has become quite wealthy with this kind of shtick and has drawn a lot of wannabe imitators. Find a subject that people argue about and throw gasoline on the fire while appearing to report facts. Unfortunately, it is this pseudo-journalism that is a big part of the problem.

Golly. So Balter’s questioners are dismissed as not “astute” enough to realize that historical, correctible (and corrected) scientific error (among scientists) is really just a nuance, but not essentially different, from *current religious doctrine*, put forth by religious people for religious purposes, without the slightest respect for integrity, facts, error, falsifiability, or anything else about science. And which hasn’t budged, despite all advances in knowledge, for a century. Golly, those nuances sure are hard to grasp.

I don’t know if Balter deserves to be called a creationist, but he sure has taken more than one page out of their playbook. Don’t listen, dismiss the opposition with pejoratives, repeat error, ignore anyone who’s been there and has experience, and when statements are demonstrably false, repeat them some more.

What’s obvious to those of us not too astute to know better, is that IF creationism held any water scientifically, there wouldn’t be any need to use political and legal means to get it into science class; it would have earned that in the literature. Us people not astute enough to be listened to have mostly *been through* religious arguments in discussions of science, and have seen how well they communicate knowledge about science. But I guess demonstrated failure is a bit too subtle a nuance. Certainly experience can’t defeat ideology in a fair fight, because ideology has never permitted one.

Gwen’s comment is very interesting. Teaching evolution in its social and historical context is fine for well off charter school students, but out of bounds for the plebes who just couldn’t handle it right.

I wonder if Balter has any grasp of just how badly he comes off with these sorts of facile dismissals of thoughtful comments.

Again, for those blockheads here who can’t get this straight, it does not mean that they are right, but it means that you have to contend with them. Why else have they been posted here and made the subjects of threads and nearly 150 comments now? It couldn’t be because people here have nothing better to do, could it?

Balter apparently doesn’t understand the dynamics of discussion groups any better than he understands the dynamics of religion, creationism, and public high school education. Length of the thread does not measure importance. We have had much longer threads here, debating people of far less significance making far more absurd claims. They tend to go on as long as the person keeps posting. People will drop in to once again explain why the claims are so absurd, but there would be no consequence if they failed to do so. That people do contend with these claims does not mean that they have to. We also have long threads that repeat pointless debates about religion; these threads never resolve anything and rarely introduce any ideas that haven’t been rehashed dozens of times. People don’t have to engage in these debates, they just do. But very important findings in science might be posted here with only one or two comments. Controversial statements draw comment, and nothing can be inferred about the importance of the statements from the number of comments they draw.

Aside from that, what is Balter’s point? When the swiftboaters went after Kerry, he had to contend with them (but didn’t soon enough). So what, exactly, other than that Balter takes poor advantage of his ability to get opinion pieces published? Balter seems to think that he was answering Anton’s question “And you think your opinion on education policy matters…why?” but he doesn’t seem to have understood it, perhaps because he considers his importance self-evident. But Balter brings no particular experience or expertise in education policy to the table, and there’s no reason, really, that people “have to” pay attention to his opinions on the matter.

a few here seem to get their sense of self worth from their notions of themselves as great heroes in the anti-creationist fight

Oh, the irony. One does, it seems.

we really need to get people more astute than both Flint and Raging Bee in here or just forget it because we are getting nowhere

The lack of astuteness is primarily Balter’s. Just what does he consider getting somewhere … people agreeing with him? Having his proposals implemented? From a more objective POV, we have gotten somewhere; people have explained at some length, based in part on personal experience, why they reject Balter’s proposal, and people have learned a bit more about the thought processes of the person making the proposal.

There seems to be some sort of assumption here that a large percentage of biology teachers in the public schools are creationists and so can’t be trusted to handle the teaching of evolution in its historical and current context,

and yet, one of the things you constantly stress is that “creationism” is the majority viewpoint.

do I need to show you how many times you have said that?

so why do you find it an unreasonable assumption that a large proportion of teachers(estimated by those who actually HAVE looked at the issue at around 30%) really CAN’T be trusted to teach creationism as a “historical challenge” to the ToE. Instead, they would seize the opportunity to do exactly what they want, which is to put up false criticisms of the ToE in order to make a clear preference for creationism as an explanation.

I swear, it’s like you find it easy to WRITE editorials for a newspaper, but never actually READ the newspaper itself.

I suppose you missed all the legislation in creationist states backed by school boards who would rather teach creationism than evolution?

If you did, in your blind ignorance, in fact miss ALL of that, you can use this very site to track it down, as there is likely an entry regarding these measures on just about every page.

This goes right to the charge I keep making against you, that you refuse to acknowledge your limited understanding of how evolution is actually taught at the secondary level, and refuse to check your own ignorance, which completely flies in the face of what is well documented in the very papers you choose to publish your editorials in! It’s a shocking bit of denial on your part. You should think twice about accusing scientists of denial, when you yourself exhibit it more oft than not.

a few here seem to get their sense of self worth from their notions of themselves as great heroes in the anti-creationist fight

Oh, the irony. One does, it seems.

oh yes, this level of irony does seem familiar, especially to anyone who has ever argued with a creationist on PT.

doubtless Balter will not see it though, which also seems eerily familiar.

I swear, this one shows as much denial and projection as any creobot we’ve had on PT in the last couple of years.

Why are you debating with me? Because whether my ideas are right, wrong, stupid, or whether I am a dupe of the creationists—whatever—I have managed to get them published in two major publications with more than a million readers between them, the Los Angeles Times and the International Herald Tribune.

again, that doesn’t answer his question.

it’s like you use the fact you managed to get an editorial published in a newspaper as some sort of weird self-authoritarianism.

hey, some of my photos of flowers made the front page of the local paper where I live.

does that make me a professional botanist?

really, you have said this as support for your ideas on several occassions now, and yet have the gall to say that referring you to commentary directly on point by NSF and NAAS is “a authoritarian argument”.

the mere fact that you use being published in a newspaper as support for your idea should be giving any rational person pause.

One can only marvel at someone who has been a science writer for serious peer-reviewed publications, that somehow then thinks a newspaper is somehow a more substantive publishing platform.

I’m sure Anne Coulter makes the exact same arguments about the validity of her contentions based on her tremendous book sales figures.

I have suggested that science teachers stage debates in class over these issues,

hmm, now where have I seen THAT before… Kathy Martin maybe?

wasn’t there a PT post about one of the creationist school boards proposing setting up just such debate in order to discredit evolutionary theory in their classrooms?

there was even a xerox copy of the notes showing exactly how they would do it, IIRC.

anybody recall that post? It was about a year ago.

Michael Balter Wrote:

I will have to see if any of the suggested sources actually provide figures for the percentage of high school biology teachers that are creationists, but if it is a large percentage then what do people here propose to do about it? Fire them all and start over?

Yes, they do provide figures, and no, that’s not the proposal–the proposal is to give them a good evolution lesson plan & textbook and require them to teach it.

One of the advantages to my proposals is that they would require evolution to be discussed in the classroom, as well as creationism, a situation far better than nothing on these subjects being taught at all.

Is anyone from the pro-evolution side proposing that we teach nothing? And most of the official state standards at least nominally require discussion of evolution AFAIK; the problem is that those standards are ignored or subverted.

The comments about elitism once again miss the point. I am talking about elitism that says that only well off students in charter schools and their teachers are capable of handling these complex issues and that public schools are not, which is what Gwen said, not about the relationship between teacher and student which of course is one of inequality in knowledge and experience (or should be.)

Well, yes. For some reason you don’t like the idea that a discussion about a given topic might be unhelpful if students and teacher aren’t sufficiently educated on that subject, so you condemn that as “elitism.” On the other hand, you’re perfectly cool with the idea that the teacher-student relationship is based on an inequality in knowledge and experience, so you don’t want to call that “elitism,” even though it obviously is–it implies that ignorant, inexperienced people are unsuited for the exalted position of teacher.

Oh, and Anton Mates, sorry.

“And you think your opinion on education policy matters…why?”

Raging Bee said that, not me.

“I am talking about elitism that says that only well off students in charter schools and their teachers are capable of handling these complex issues and that public schools are not, which is what Gwen said, not about the relationship between teacher and student which of course is one of inequality in knowledge and experience (or should be).”

A. The students at the high school I attended were not especially well-off. Not everyone went to this particular high school as a first resort. I suspect that that situation is similar to the situation at most, if not all, charter schools. Charter schools *are* public; they are funded by the government and have to teach what the government mandates (a little more flexibility on some things, I think). The major advantage a charter school has over a traditional public school is that you are put into the latter by default, and have to actually “apply” (as far as I know, the school cannot reject an application, but can say that they don’t have enough space; good charter schools, at least in our area, have waiting lists) to get in. They’re not answerable (again, AFAIK) to the elected school board of the “public” school district. And, depending on the school, they may attract a different type of teacher. Tri-City College Prep High School took full advantage of the flexibility afforded it. We had a shorter overall day with longer class periods (only five total, and some students weren’t enrolled for all five periods; seniors mostly, I think, because we had a credit-based graduation system), and we had, as I said, a rock-solid biology teacher who was nice but wouldn’t’ve let herself be pushed around, backed up by Dr. Halvorsen, same on both counts. And it only takes a couple of perfectly-willing-to-be-vocal ToE supporters, the aforementioned PBS videos, such a teacher, and a solid textbook to make the somewhat-tentative “but I heard in church” people get the idea that ID wasn’t going to be terribly welcome in class. But (and let me spell this out for you) we had a lot of things on our side: -the videos and video equipment. No, they weren’t HDTV monitors and DVD players by any means; it was the only video equipment in the school and we were stuck with a fickle VCR. (Prescott, AZ is not Silicon Valley.) But it’s still more than that inner-city school you’re thinking of doing this at, where they’re a little more worried about keeping the roof from leaking and the textbooks less than fifty years old; still more than extremely rural areas like some places in Mississippi and the Appalachias where if you’re an adult and you can read you’re in the (statistical, still substantial) minority. -the teacher, and Dr. Halvorsen. The “doctor” should tip you off that we had more in her than most schools have, and she got it in education. D’ya think she’d make her teachers waste their time learning feng shui and astrology? Didn’t think so. And the teacher was in the seventy percent of biology teachers who reject creationism (think about that, only seventy percent) and in the maybe thirty percent total who was willing to fight the good fight and everyone else knew it. -the time, the knowledge, the inclination. The students. The parents. These are simple facts, Mr. Balter. And you can talk about how elitist I am for using facts to support my argument ’til you’re blue in the face, but I will still think, at the end of it all, that it’s more elitist by far to care so little for the students who will be harmed by your proposal that you refuse to even look at the facts, to consider the attitudes toward creationism in the places where more than anywhere else students cannot afford to be failed again, to consider how fair the fight can be when one side will give anything to win and obfuscation and outright lying are its favorite weapons, that you refuse to even look at those oh-so-elitist facts or listen to the oh-so-elitist teachers and the people who live in the places you’re trying to affect because you’re afraid that your pet theory of how to teach science to high school students will be rejected if you actually listen to scientists, teachers, or high school students (or recent high school students). You’re willing to sacrifice all these students on the altar of your philosophy of pedagogy, and you know so strongly that you are right, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that you will gladly do this because you’ve got truthiness on your side, and your gut, and everyone knows that facts are elitist.

The thing that I don’t get with Baltar’s proposal is that to me, it’s exactly the same as “Teach the Controversy”, proposed by creationists.

Michael, I’m very interested to hear how your proposal is different from Teach the Controversy, or, if they are substantially the same, why you think it’s a good idea to adopt a creationist tactic in public schools?

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Dunford published on January 31, 2007 1:27 PM.

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