Friday, December 14, 2007

Arguments IV - Catch Phrases

How about avoiding the dictionary this time and just look at some of the catch phrases designed to 'slip' Intelligent Design into the science classroom.

Like "Teach the Controversy", the "Fairness", "Balanced View", "Allowing Students to Make Up Their Own Mind", and "Free Speech" are all aimed at the same thing, finding a legal pretext to bring Intelligent Design into the science classroom. For the moment forget that it has no basis in science as of yet, forget that it's illegal to teach it as science in the public school classroom, and forget all the religious connections that the Discovery Institute is constantly trying to smokescreen from view. Don't even think about science right now, focus on these phrases and what their impact might be on what is taught in any subject.

Let's take a different subject, one less fraught with emotion, Mathematics. Is there currently Free Speech, Fairness concerns, a Balanced viewpoint, or are students allowed to make up their own mind? Hell no! Look what this would do to Mathematics?

"2+2 is whatever you want it to be, Little Jonnie!"

"If Susie has 5 oranges, and you took 2 away, . . .No, I don't know why they took two oranges. I guess they only had 1 and now they both have 3 -- regardless of the fact Susie earned her 5 oranges . . ."

"How many students want to solve multi-dimensional quadratic equations today? OK no one, then let's go back to our discussion on how many ghosts Scooby-Doo helped catch!"

I know I am being a little silly, but do you get my point? We don't consider these things in our school curriculum? We teach the things believed to provide a well-rounded education and to give kids a start in the rest of their life! That's not free speech! We don't hold the curriculum of any class up for debate! We teach the current thinking of the subject matter! We prep our kids for further education and life! Do we do a perfect job, no! There are still kids who graduate high school who somehow miss some basic skills, like reading, 'riting, and 'rithmatic, but how many more would graduate without skills if we spent so much time trying to meet some fairness doctrine that required us to teach every possible side to every possible idea?

Look at the study of History! Let's teach American history from the point of view of the European settlers and then let's teach it again from the point of view of the Native Americans and just for fun let's teach it from the African point of view. Now let's teach it from the immigrants viewpoint throughout history. Now I am not saying these things shouldn't be studied, but remember how different the story would be if you made the study completely "Fair and Balanced". You wouldn't have time for anything else.

Since you cannot teach an infinite number of things in any course of study Most states have created guidelines for the development of curriculum and school boards and teachers are required to follow those guidelines. Teachers are also well training in their field of study, I mean you rarely see a physiology major teaching Physics? I can see the teacher selection board now "Physiology . . . .Phsy . . . .Physics . . .yea, we have a match!" You see, you have to, at some point, filter what is going to be taught for a number of reasons including time, level of importance, applicability, and even age group. You aren't going to start teaching the Big Bang in First Grade, are you? So this filtering needs to be done professionally and not based on the wispy concept of what is fair! Fair should be a consideration, but only fairness of those things that are actually part of the curriculum area of study. You aren't going to teach how to balance a checkbook in political science class, are you? Oh that leads it's self to so many jokes doesn't it?

So as we can see the fairness principle is built in, but it still needs to cover only those things that are applicable to the subject matter. As I have said many times Intelligent Design is not science so keeping it out of the science curriculum is the proper decision.

I love the Free Speech and Let the Students decide for themselves line. Is there free speech in the classroom? Not when it comes to curriculum content, not in any subject area. Keeping Intelligent Design out of science isn't a violation of free speech, it's smart teaching. Let's also remember that with free speech comes responsibility. I mean you are free to walk into a crowded movie theater and shout "Fire!" But as we all know there better be a damned fire or you are going to jail! Plus the civil lawsuits for anyone physically hurt or emotionally upset by your action! Free Speech doesn't mean that you get to say anything you want whenever you want and it never has. As for letting the Students decide for themselves, as if an Intelligent Design supporter really wants this. What would a curriculum really look like if students got to pick and choose the details of what gets taught? Imagine English class? Students are not a good judge of what they will need later in life, are they? I personally remember thinking "What use is this subject after high school?" and later needing it and using it and thinking "Damn, I guess it was a good thing after all." Ha that applied to every subject, of course not, but back in High School I would have dropped nearly all the curriculum content for history, geography, bachelor living (guy's home economics), and most science. Oh but then I found myself working with electronics, living alone and all that it entailed, and traveling the world thanks to the US Air Force and I found myself grateful for my education. The reason I would have made a poor judge of what subjects to teach is simply because I am a poor judge of where I was going in the future.

So these catch phrases are nothing more than emotional arguments designed to make it sound like inserting Intelligent Design into the science curriculum is the 'right' thing to do. The opposite is true, it would be the wrong thing on so many levels! Plus, as they discovered in Dover, it will open your school system to an expensive lawsuit, wasting money better spent on education.

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