Friday, February 25, 2011

How to help Science Education!

This is a follow-up to "Klinghoffer lies by Omission, part II". There I stated what I really thought the problem wasn't so much that teachers were hesitant, but that teachers need the support of the groups of people they should expect support, the school boards and school administrators.

Steven Newton, the programs and policy director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has a great post offering other suggestions: "How Can We Get Teachers to Be Less Cautious and More Confident Teaching Evolution?" Here are his suggestions:

  • Attacks on evolution in the media need to be countered with real science.
  • Pro-science parents need to make it clear to teachers and school administrators that they expect evolution to be taught.
  • Finally, in-service teachers need the tools to teach evolution effectively.
I agree with everything he says; however, I think he is still keeping the teachers on the front-line with little to no top-cover. I happen to be a firm believer in top-cover. Some of you might not be aware of the term. In the Air Force, top-cover simply means 'support from above'. It can be anything from air superiority on the battlefield to support from your boss in the execution of your job. In this situation, I think we may need them both.

Of course you can be sure I am certainly talking about support from their bosses. Teachers who are doing their job deserve all the support they can possible get. When an Evangelical Parent gets in the face of a school board member or school administrator, the last thing that should happen is the teacher becomes a sacrificial lamb. The first reaction should be the defense of science, science education, and, most certainly, their teacher.

But I am also talking about air superiority. If this is a contentious issue then the school administrators and even the school boards need to be educated on the subject. If we can fight fire with fire, as Mr. Nelson suggests by countering bad press with good, we also need to equip what should be the first line of defense of our teachers with the information they need to counter the arguments of these evangelical groups and parents.

Is doing so dangerous? Yes. school board members and school administrators will come under fire from evangelical groups and parents who are pushing their agenda. They might find their positions threatened. But they also need to look at what happened to the school board administrators in places like Ohio, Kansas Texas, and Dover Pa. The people and groups threatening education were eventually defeated and many of them tossed out of office. There may have been short-term victories, like in Kansas, but a single battle doesn't decide a war.

I guess that leads to the question is are we at war? Well how would you describe it? We have groups pushing the religion in science and as we also see attempts to re-write history. We have them using tactics that their OWN religions claim is a sin. They threaten, browbeat, and lie in order to force people to accept the supremacy of their narrow world-view regardless of reality. In all honesty they have more in common with Muslim Fundamentalist than they do with most Christians.

The bottom line is that we need a layered defense and also multiple avenues of offense. Without a doubt Mr. Newton's suggestions have merit. But we also need school districts to weigh into the fight because what is at stake is not just their jobs and political positions, but something much more important, the education of our kids!

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