What’s the matter with the Heartland, or why teaching science can suck

July 20, 2008

Teaching science is tough business. They pay, awful. The students, worse.

LIBERTY, Mo. – Monday morning, Room 207: First day of a unit on the origins of life. Veteran biology teacher Al Frisby switches on the overhead projector and braces himself.As his students rummage for their notebooks, Frisby introduces his central theme: Every creature on earth has been shaped by random mutation and natural selection – in a word, by evolution.The challenges begin at once.

“Isn’t it true that mutations only make an animal weaker?” sophomore Chris Willett demands. “‘Cause I was watching one time on CNN and they mutated monkeys to see if they could get one to become human and they couldn’t.”

Frisby tries to explain that evolution takes millions of years, but the student isn’t listening.

“I feel a tail growing!” he calls to his friends, drawing laughter.

Unruffled, Frisby puts up a transparency tracing the evolution of the whale, from its ancient origins as a hoofed land animal through two lumbering transitional species and finally into the sea. He is about to start on the fossil evidence when sophomore Jeff Paul interrupts: “How are you 100 percent sure that those bones belong to those animals? It could just be some deformed raccoon.”

From the back of the room, sophomore Melissa Brooks chimes in: “Those are real bones that someone actually found? You’re not just making this up?”

“No, I am not just making it up,” Frisby says.

At least half the students in this class of 14 don’t believe him, though, and they aren’t about to let him off.

Two decades of political and legal maneuvering on evolution has spilled over into public schools, and biology teachers are struggling to respond. Loyal to the accounts they have learned in church, students are taking it upon themselves to wedge creationism into the classroom, sometimes with snide comments, but also with sophisticated questions – and a fervent faith.

As sophomore Daniel Read put it: “I’m going to say as much about God as I can in school, even if the teachers can’t.”

Such challenges have become so disruptive that some teachers dread the annual unit on evolution – or skip it altogether.

Science doesn’t have a good repution in America, and I don’t know maybe in not many other places either. Conservatives believe that scientists are another liberal political faction who’s pushing corrupt ideas like climate change and evolution as part of a larger conspiracy to destroy America by getting us to hate God and establish a liberal Reich in Washington that would turn us all into secular humanists and next thing you know everyone will whoring an such, because it’s simply in our biology. Scientists don’t know what they are talking about anyway. And these science teachers are simply the front line soldiers of this consipracy.

Science teachers have to be rabidly involved in the conspiracy. After all, they accept crudy pay when they could use their degree to get another job that pays twice what they are making. They must be true believers, zealots, in what they are preaching in order to do that. Conservative and truly Christian people who try to make as much money as they can. They are the front line to brainwash kids into believing the conspiracy and hating God. Christianity is under siege and Bin Laden is laughing in between his kidney dialysis treatments.

Don’t believe me:? Just grab the latest books from the NYT Bestsellers list from author including LaHaye, Coulter, and O’Reilly.

OK, this is really what I believe. I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t really matter much if kids in Liberty, Missouri or say Sandersville, Georgia or Rawlins, Wyoming to name a few places, don’t learn about evolution. They’re destined to work at Wal-Mart or go into the military to fight the Global War On Terror (copyrighted). They aren’t going to save America. We will continue to import smart people from places like India and China to do the real scientific and engineering like work. Mostly they aren’t Christians, although one could make the effort to get them to convert and become true believers in the faith.

And when these folks don’t want to come here anymore, we’re fucked.


One Response to “What’s the matter with the Heartland, or why teaching science can suck”

  1. sol Says:

    I always find misplaced anti-Christian elitism like this amusing. The US became a world power with a majority of the population, including a lot of smart people, not believing in Darwinian evolution. There is no reason that this needs to change. Most scientific – and all engineering – work is unrelated to evolutionary biology.

    I thought your characterisation of Bobby Jindal was funny. Jindal converted to Catholicism in high school, before he took an honors degree in biology from Brown. Yet despite his Ivy League biology degree he supports the teaching of ID.

    And while it is possible – maybe even likely – that the majority of immigrants to the US from India and China are not Christian, Christianity is a growing religion amongst both nationalities. Christianity is the third largest religion in India, with over 24,000,000 adherents in 2001. Christianity is the majority religion amongst Chinese Americans and there are over 1,000 Chinese churches in the US. China may have the largest Christian population of any country in the world, because while the Chinese government says there are only 100 million, research at Shanghai University indicates the real total may be as high as 300 million.

    So what you may find is that the Indian and Chinese immigrants are not only valuable to American scientific and engineering work, but also revitalising American Christianity.

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