The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, February 03, 2005

The de facto eviction of evolution in schools

It's in the Times so it must be true.

The fights in the school boards and the courts to degrade the standing of evolution as a topic to be taught to American schoolchildren goes on north and south of the Missouri Compromise line.

But - just as with Jim Crow - the vast burden of enforcement is borne by communities exercising social pressure to exact conformity.

Thus, for example,
"The most common remark I've heard from teachers was that the chapter on evolution was assigned as reading but that virtually no discussion in class was taken," said Dr. John R. Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, an evangelical Christian and a member of Alabama's curriculum review board who advocates the teaching of evolution. Teachers are afraid to raise the issue, he said in an e-mail message, and they are afraid to discuss the issue in public.

Another Alabamian educator says
You can imagine how difficult it would be to teach evolution as the standards prescribe in ever so many little towns, not only in Alabama but in the rest of the South, the Midwest - all over.

Cobb County, GA and Dover, PA we're talked about before (January 18); there are also fun and games in Kansas City, KS; in Phoenix, AZ, don't ask don't tell is favoured, though some other AZ school districts are a little bolder.

I'd hypothesise that the climate of fear stirred up by the anti-scientists may be worse than that that reigned in Dayton, TN around the time of the Scopes monkey trial.

I've mentioned before a 1997 piece by Carol Iannone The Truth About Inherit the Wind which compares reality with the movie version. The key point was that the trial was essentially collusive - the leading citizens of Dayton were (before the event, at least) quite happy for the town to enjoy the notoriety the circus brought, and bore no ill-will toward Scopes.

No doubt, this relaxed view was born of the fact that creationism was under no systematic challenge in Tennessee in 1925. Just as the start of the schools desegregation litigation caused a hardening of racial attitudes in the South, as the threat to Jim Crow became closer and more concrete, so, the relative combativeness of creationists today, compared with eighty years ago, might be explained by the present entrenched position (to the extent it is!) of their opponents.

With the notion of intelligent design and demands made for equality of treatment of ID and evolution, one might analogise the astonishing success of anti-abortionists in cleansing 87% US counties of abortion providers [1], getting procedural impediments legally mandated, undermining the legal basis of abortion with the likes of Laci and Connor's Law, and the rest of the bag of tricks.

For most teachers, I suspect the buggeration threshold for evolution is pretty low: the line of least resistance beckons. Easy for creationists to characterise those few educators who fight evolution's corner as barrack-room lawyers keen on picking a fight. Troublemakers. Un-American, even.

  1. One sees 84% and 86% mentioned. Caveat lector.

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