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Teaching the Controversy


I came across a great article from The Wild Hunt at Patheos about the new wave of ‘Teach the Controversy’ propaganda being put out by the religious wackos of our age. I will not step into the muddy water that is the very source of the problem by stereotyping religious wackos as Republican or Democrat, Left or Right. I had to pin one of these great T-shirts about the subject to Pintrest because I happen to like the myth of Atlantis and the graphics were good. Despite this, I think it bears repeating that this is a new wave of creationist gobbledygook that says a great deal about gendered discourse in our day and age.

Don’t get me wrong. I have Christian family and my mother used to teach at a private Christian school, so this is not completely unfamiliar to me but what is sketchy in my view, is exactly what Tennessee thinks it will accomplish by instituting legislation requiring public school teachers to ‘Teach the Controversy.’ The National Association of Biology Teachers, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Nashville Tennessean, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, the National Earth Science Teachers Association, the Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and all eight Tennessee members of the National Academy of Sciences oppose the legislation

There is no ‘Controversy‘ as I understand it. I am one of those people who thinks evolution is the ‘how’ of divinity but it seems that there is some confusion as to whether or not teaching the controversy is a historical compendium and overview of the discredited theories of yesteryear and how modern civilization reached its consensus about evolution or if rather, it is a new method of teaching intelligent design. And that is being kind. At best, it seems some from the right-wing want to bring an interdisciplinary approach to public high school science courses and at worst, it seems that they are attempting to mesh church and State. I don’t believe high school students are stupid and that an interdisciplinary approach to the various eras and epochs of science is a bad idea but this is not what Teach the Controversy implies.

Teaching the controversy will require educators to introduce their students to valid and important information such as the unresolved issues of evolution and weak points in the theory. I would have liked to have encountered some of this in my University classes and as I am taking Earth Science in the fall semester, perhaps I will. But these are UNIVERSITY level courses. Not high school.

But wait. Teaching the Controversy will also require that intelligent design concepts like irreducible complexity be presented and evaluated as a scientific argument against evolution through oblique references to books by design proponents listed in the bibliography of the Discovery Institute-proposed “Critical Analysis of Evolution” lesson plans, despite intelligent design having been rejected by an overwhelming majority of scientists.

I see dangerous implications related to social engineering going on and I smell a rat but not in the overwrought, left vs. right vein. I see a religious right that is attempting to manipulate  the modern world and I see them as giving up ground which is a serious tactical error in my mind, but wholly in keeping with Balkanization at home and Universalism abroad. However, in a globalized world, these distinctions wont hold and this will create more long-term divisive problems than they purport to solve in the short run. I flat-out believe that this is the religious right selling the future of our children out from under them.

Before a student can be introduced to higher level concerns, they should know the basic formula. And this is me speaking as a student who is working on an interdisciplinary degree! College should be the level at which these concepts are introduced and to dismiss this distinction flies in the face of all common sense. A federal court, along with the majority of scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, say the Discovery Institute which has created the curriculum has manufactured the controversy they want to teach by promoting a false perception that evolution is “a theory in crisis” due to it being the subject of purported wide controversy and debate within the scientific community.

Personally, I think that this is all hooey but I live next door to Tennessee and many of her children attend my University. There is bullshit afoot people. It may not blossom for another twenty years but I beieve that there will be hell to pay as a result. But here is a link to a good PBS broadcast about the debate.

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