Faith in the Theory of Evolution

Some update on my son’s science teacher’s classes on Evolution:

1. Faith in the Theory:

When asked how a question about Evolution the teacher prefaced the reply with: “Well, it depends on your faith in the theory.”  Arggghhh.  There is the issue with theory, again.

2. Humans don’t come from Monkeys:

The teacher told the class “they have not discovered any skeletons that link monkeys to humans.”  Ouch — very true but bad teaching.  Humans don’t come from monkeys.  Monkeys, Apes and Humans all shared ancestors.  The rest you know.

 3. Factual and True:

When my friend asked his daughter if she felt evolution as if it were factual and true, the daughter said, “Yes”.  But when he asked if she felt that her teacher thought it was factual and true, she said, “I don’t know”.  Ouch.  But it would be tough if she didn’t believe.  It is these other lines that are getting to us.

Planned Approach:  We have decided to let the teacher finish this section and gather information.  Then we will approach the teacher at the end of the year after our kids are safely out of her class.  I wager she has more information to offer us before then.



Filed under Events, Science

25 responses to “Faith in the Theory of Evolution

  1. keep us posted..I know I’d take issue with the school.

  2. Um, humans do share a matrilineal ancestor with chimpanzees. So she is deliberately distorting the truth. She probably means Homo Sapiens; but in that case she shouldn’t say “humans”.

    It’s like saying “there’s no evidence that the tetanus vaccine prevents all infections” as an argument against getting the vaccine.

    Well done Sabio on being so patient with this teacher. I would have flipped out by now!

  3. TWF

    Good strategy, and good parenting. Well done.

  4. Earnest

    Let me preface by saying I still have not contacted this teacher myself. So at the risk of spinning out a tale of suppositions, this seems to be a classic example of hedging one’s bets. With rabid hostility on all sides, this teacher makes wimpy half-statements, which serve to deflect the slings and arrows of philosophers in full combat gear. They also are more gentle so as to not stomp on the youths before them with the iron boots of college level logical discourse.

    Sabio, I accuse you of the crime of asking as much of others as you ask of yourself regarding levels of intellectual rigor.

  5. Good plan. I might not have the discipline to wait until the end of the year!

  6. @ amelie :
    Yes, that is the whole point: common ancestors and what you call those critters back then. She might have well said, “Humans don’t come from German Shepards”.

    @ TWF :

    @ Earnest :
    Sorry, dude, can’t follow you.
    Address the points here if you’d like so as to perhaps clarify.

    @ Paul Sunstone :

  7. Earnest

    Sabio I think that the assignment to teach evolution in Middle School is a thankless job that is a setup for bad letters in one’s personnel file, no matter what one says as a teacher. It is, by its very nature, an impolite topic. And rudeness from a teacher vs. the students can precipitate a meeting witn the principal.

    College level is entirely different. It is expected that garbage would be called just that, in the classroom before one’s peers. At that point the silly ID parents are nowhere in sight, and logic shall dominate and score the A grade.

    I was bullied in Middle School for being a socially awkward yet brilliant logician. I lost some of my cognitive capacity after a concussion I suffered in Middle School.

    I would like you to consider telling your son the value of sitting silently and discussing the topic at a much higher level at home.

  8. chaz

    Sabio acts like it all matters.

  9. Way to wait it out! Like the plan and the exploration here. All this makes me wonder why this teacher is hedging so much… ignorant of the subject or worse willfully ignorant? Honest with what we don’t know yet or exaggerating on purpose towards an end? Looking forward to the final sit down.

  10. @Earnest – Honestly, I’m kind of shocked you told Sabio that his son should sit down and be quiet in response to the teacher telling lies to her student in class. If he were being arbitrarily disruptive I’d say yeah, sit down and shut up, kid. But he’s speaking out against an immoral act. We should support that 100% of the time, especially when children do it.

  11. Earnest

    @ Amelie: when it endangers the child to bullying, and the child can choose to comment or not, it is ethically hazardous to push the child into hazard as a proxy for what the parent is invested in.

  12. @Earnest – First of all, you should never put the blame on the victim. Telling children to stop acting a certain way because it might “force” someone to beat him up is terrible child rearing.

    Second, children who have the temerity to speak out against a teacher’s false statements are not going to get beat up. It’s the weaklings and awkward kids that bullies go after – not the strong ones.

  13. @ Earnest :
    Your temperament and experiences strongly flavors your advice. My son is nothing like you, as you know.

    My son is very well aware of the value of sitting silent. The world is full of silent sitters. We discuss that pathetic state of affairs often. We understand the risks, we have faced them as a family already. You, on the other hand, are a proponent of the chameleon method. The world is an interesting collection of critters. We don’t all want to be like you.

    “I would like you to consider”… to take care in how you take it on yourself to tell me what to do.

  14. Earnest

    @ Amelie: as someone who was once a bullied child I assure you that your statement is not universally true. Survival in a tribalist environment can require choosing one’s battles. If one needs no friends, of course, then one can push forward whatever agenda one chooses. But things happen when stupid children with powerful parents become irritated with a peer in school. I am simply reminding you that this behavior among children of this age exists. It is a hazardous age to have the outward appearance of being a philosopher and a heretic. In college it is much safer. As a martial artist, I feel it is good parenting to teach the value of avoidance of conflict as a survival tool. We obviously have different parenting styles.

    @ Sabio: if your son decides to take this on of his own accord he is clearly not me. And perhaps he is already more of a man than I ever will be. I just want both you and your son to be clear about what can occur as a result of raising the level of discourse far above the level what one’s peers are likely capable of understanding.

    I do not forget that your athiest son was elected leader of peers including my son while he was transiently a member of a childrens’ organization with religious core concepts [note to the reader: Sabio’s son left the organization shortly thereafter]. Perhaps your son is a born leader, just as my son and I are born followers.

    I find that the tribalism of children your son’s age is intense. I find it revolting to a visceral degree, and that biases my opinions. Your son may wish to take on this tribalism and attempt to change the culture of his school and live through the consequences. It will certainly be interesting to watch as events unfold.

  15. Earnest, you are dramatizing this thing.

  16. CRL

    Earnest: As someone also bullied at that age, all ages before it, and some ages after it, you are giving them too much credit. Middle school kids do not sit to think about who is “different” and attack them, they simply go for the weakest and for whoever is already being attacked. A kid with elephant ears could escape bullying if they had the social skills and confidence to do so. (Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to use social skills to overcome a glaring lack of social skills, though I appear to have ultimately succeeded at this.) Someone who is already seen as “weak” or “strange” by their classmates could walk on water and be made fun of for it, whereas someone with higher social status would be revered as a god.

    In other words, if Sabio’s son is the sort who has the confidence to speak out against a teacher and is more socially competent than I was at his age, he will probably not hurt his standing by doing so. If that is not the case, there are more important things in life, true friends do not run away from philosophers or heretics, and those who do will realize their error once they emerge from their awful period of pre-adolescence.

    Sabio: Have you talked to other parents in the class? If not, you probably should, as your data from watching and waiting might not be worth much if you do not have anyone other than you and your son to corroborate your story.

  17. Jerad

    When I was in High School, after we got done watching a video on evolution, my teacher told us that Darwin regretted his theory on his deathbed. I had no reason to disbelieve her at the time considering she was my science teacher. But it was enough for me to question evolution just as much as I questioned the Christian religion that I grew up in. Of course now, I realize the creationist intent. The story was never proven, though I do believe I read somewhere, though I can’t recall, that Darwin regretted the impact not the theory, but I’m not sure on that one. Although teachers should be treated with more respect than they often get, I think the teachers have a great responsibility to keep their personal beliefs out of the classroom. Especially science teachers. That is not to say that they can’t hold onto their beliefs, but not to the extent that they lead teenagers down a road to misunderstanding science.

  18. CRL,
    Great comment.
    My son is gathering lots of friends these days — and he is bold about arguing opinions (much like his father) — whether that is evolution, gods, politics or music. I am surprised to see him becoming his own person. I constantly tell him the danger of such paths while praising his bravery. It is a delicate balance, but he is quickly becoming his own man. I am largely an observer privileged to be with him these years.

    I’ve talked to one other teacher of a kid in the class (who I speak of in these posts). But even if I did not, it would not matter, I intend to approach the teacher gently after school ends — no attacks, no bad feelings. My kid and my friend’s kid love this teacher — and thus, so do I. She has done great favors for my kid — I am in debt. We will discuss one small aspect of life.

    @ Jerad,
    I agree. Teachers have a tough job. But, as you say, these asides they say, can influence kids who consider their teachers authorities. Thanx for sharing your story.

  19. @Earnest,

    If one needs no friends, of course, then one can push forward whatever agenda one chooses

    Agenda, huh? This is sort of what I suspected. It sounds like you’re trying to distract with the completely absurd bullying argument. What’s really going on?

  20. CRL

    Oh. In that case, why not now? If you were going to take more of a course of attack, I would understand waiting to “gather evidence.” But if you are going about this in a friendlier way than I understood from previous comments, to me, it makes sense to approach her as soon as possible, since your goal is not to make a case for her losing her job but to make sure your son’s classmates get taught properly. Unless you want to have your son handle the whole thing. That would work too.

  21. @ CRL,
    Well, my friend’s kid would rather us not approach now. And besides, my son is learning from this whole thing. We will worry that the next years will be taught properly — both of our families have more younger kids coming up through the system.

  22. CRL

    Yeah. For now, leaving it to your son does sound like a very good idea. I’m sure he’ll enjoy the whole process.

  23. Earnest

    It is becoming clear that I am too emotional about this topic to think logically. Sabio I would like to give you the details in private.

    As I said before, it will be interesting to observe events as they play out.

  24. @ Earnest,
    Yes, your private note confirms that there is a lot of childhood bad stuff tied up with your evals which make them far less about my situation then about you. Thanx for writing.

  25. rautakyy

    When I was an eight grader, my Finnish teacher (it is my native language), a very authoritarian style teacher, wanted to have a discussion with my class to better our discussion skills. I can no longer remember how she managed to turn the conversation towards religion, but thinking it now as an adult, it must have been a high priority for her personally. However, she made a comment, that she was certain, that Christianity was the most widely spread religion, because it was the only relgion of peace and love. I was an adolescent kid, who did not understand that this was a very emotional subject to her and it felt to me like she was trying to push on to us something, that had nothing to do with our language studies she was supposed to teach. Instead a very controversial notion, as if it was factual truth, just because she used her authority as a teacher to tell us so.

    I replied to her, that she must be right, because for example Buddhism is well known everywhere for the bloody military campaings to convert people all around the globe and steal their natural resources in the process, and since it is a well known, that our very own ancestors turned to Christianity because it is the only religion of peace and love. For those of you who did not know this, my native Finland was turned from our ancestral religion to Christianity in the 12th and 13th centuries by successive Crusades bloody crusades by our neighbours the Swedes. She did not appriciate my sarcasm and I was thrown out of the class room. Right afterwards I was sent to a special group for kids with learning disabilities. The specialist teacher of the group had me do some tests and concluded, that there was nothing wrong with me, but if I had personal issues with that Finnish teacher, I could continue the year over with the special group. So I did.

    It is a perillous path for a child to challenge their teachers, but it is very healthy for us to grow to understand, that all authority must first be earned. The younger we learn that, less easier it is to use us for authoritarian arbitrary, or unethical causes.

    I think that all these creationist teachers may very well act as a tool for indoctrination, but they may also serve as the eyeopening experiences for kids in issues like who and why do we trust. The sad thing is that the actual lesson is most easily learned by those who need it the least.

    In my opinion the Fundies are shooting in their own leg by so ardently pushing the ID garbage. But there seems to be a very clear and present danger, that the western civilization takes the route where science and research of the natural world is quenched because a god has allready answered all the fundamental questions.

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