…. Have you ever had this happen: You are minding your own business, teaching your life science course, it’s early in the term. A student, on the way out after class (never at the beginning of class, rarely during class) mentions something about “carbon dating.” This usually happens around the time of year you are doing an overview of the main points of the course, but before you’ve gotten to the “evolution module”…

image

Jeanne d’Arc was a very influential 10th grader. I understand she gave her Life Science teachers a very hard time. This is the only contemporary depiction of Joan of Arc. Some say the banner reads “IHS” but I’m pretty sure it says “AIG.”

The student is talking about C14 dating and how it “has problems.” But you are a life science teacher and can’t think of a single point in your class that you really touch on C14. Dating in the evolution section does not involve C14. This is for later time periods, more in the area of archaeology, and you know nothing about it. So you brush off the question but are left with an uneasy feeling.

Next class, probably just after class, the same student, again at a moment that gives you zero warning and usually no time to think of how to respond, mentions something about the Laws of Thermodynamics. This question you find more interesting and possibly even useful as the starting point of a “teachable moment…” The nature of life itself includes the fact that life works upstream against entropy. That one utterly mind-blowing aspect of life is really all you need to define life itself. If that was the only thing you used to define life, you would have very few non-life entities or events accidentally included. If you can truly understand … I mean really, really truly at a detailed level understand …. how the heck life works against the gradient of entropy, then you will understand a LOT (like, at the MA level, at least) of what is going on. To get a believable and reasonable level of understanding of this, you must get more than just basic cell function … it is not good enough to just say “The mitochondria are the tiny little powerhouses of the cell” because you have not explained how that works. You need to know about ATP and stuff. Really, you even need to know why cells use ATP as energy but none of the other obvious forms of energy that they could use … the phylogenetic effect at a very

a repost

Now, the creationist reading this will say, “Aha! The teacher is annoyed at the creationist, and the great Doctor of Evolutionary Biology is disturbed that such difficult questions come from the mouth’s of babes … these simple honest questions that are in fact impossible to answer! The Evilutionists would prefer if these questions were never even asked….”

BZZZZZZZZGGGGKKKKKZZZZZTTTG

That was the “oh please, cut out the crap” buzzer going off. The annoying creationist’s voices must now stop … after a week of feverish delirium I don’t need that crap.. This is my head, and your voices need to go somewhere else… … OK, that’s better.

Back to the issue at hand… This student is not an innocent child asking legitimate questions. Child? Yes. Innocent? That needs, in my opinion, to be demonstrated, but from a teacher’s perspective, OK, you can assume innocent until proven nefarious. But wait and see what happens. Yesterday it was C14, today it was Thermodynamics. Tomorrow it will be intelligent design at the cellular level, later on it will be missing transitional forms, and so on. The student might or might not tell you … perhaps as an admission, perhaps as a proud statement (“See, I researched this.”) that these questions are mostly coming from the Answers in Genesis web site.

Did this student find the web site through a private initiative, or perhaps by accident? Did a parent point this student to the web site? Did a Sunday school teacher or pastor tell the student about it? All of these things tend to happen, but the latter two are the most common. There is a pretty good chance that this student has been put up to this, but most likely willingly. Little 10th graders can be the strongest crusaders. Jeanne d’Arc was in tenth grade, if I remember correctly. So this is not going to end quietly.

The student will eventually start to bring these issues up during class, not just after class or before class. Most likely the other students in the class will get annoyed and protest to the student directly … they are, after all, there to learn the biology for their own reasons (like getting a high school diploma or passing a test or whatever) and regardless of their own religious views, they are not interested in this disruption. Even if they did want to get a creationist or religious perspective, they probably don’t want to hear it from this kid even outside of the class. Jeanne d’Arc might have been a tenth grader, but most tenth graders, regardless of the level of their zealotry, are not Jeanne d’Arc. Their discourse does not tend to capture the audience and they are unlikely to make a credible case that they have been visited by The Virgin.

Teacher, listen to this: There is a wide range of possible responses to the situation outlined above (or some other similar situation). Only some of them are legal. Only some of them are ethical. There are things you can do that may make perfect sense but that will significantly enhance the probability of your school or district being successfully sued.

Anyone who tells you there is an easy way to handle this is misinformed.

When Pastor Bob arms your student with creationist claims and sends him or her into your classroom, he is creating not just a disruption or an annoyance, but a professionally dangerous situation. Most likely he knows this and is doing this to generate trouble. He is, obviously, using this child as a pawn in a game that he feels he is prepared to play and maybe win. He knows he is getting points with god by doing this (as does the pawn-child) and he cares not one bit about you or your career. He sees disruption of your science class, and thus of the science education of the other students in your class, as a good thing. This may, indeed, be his primary objective other than his own salvation from sin.

While it is true that almost no teachers are prepared through formal training to handle this sort of situation without risking career or the school’s legal budget, or losing control of the class, or losing the pawn-child, most teachers can avoid trouble by keeping a few guidelines in mind.

You can’t talk about religion in your science classroom. This means you can’t have a conversation about creationism in your classroom. You may have to pull the student aside and indicate that this discussion will not happen. The student will object, indicating that “intelligent design” is not creationism. You must very firmly indicate to the student that according to the current, standing law, intelligent design IS creationism, and creationism IS religion, and religion cannot be discussed in any way whatsoever in a science classroom without risk of breaking the law. It may be necessary to indicate to the student that continued attempts to bring this conversation into the classroom have to be seen as a disciplinary problem.

Let’s talk about that angle for a moment. Have you ever had a student who will not stop talking about sex or related anatomy whenever an opportunity arises in class… blurting things out and disrupting class? Think about that scenario for a moment. The student is not special ed or special needs. The student blurts out a profanity and/or sexual or anatomical reference four or five times per class, giggles with his buddies, attempts to recruit those around him into this shenanigans even if you keep moving him, etc. This is a disciplinary issue, and you have ways of addressing it as a teacher.

A student who has been informed that there will be no discussion of creationist claims from AIG (Answers in Genesis) or anywhere else in the classroom, that ID is creationism, etc. but continues to do so is no different. As a teacher, and as a particular teacher in a particular classroom, you can’t be told by me or anyone else how to deal with this, but you must deal with it properly. A chat with a dean/assistant principal, councilors, etc. is probably in order.

And if anyone in the admin, your department head or any colleagues tell you to lighten up, that the students can express their religious views in class because of the first amendment, etc. etc., then you are on the next level of difficulties, beyond what we can do here in this one blog post. Seek outside help. Drop me a line. Contact NCSE. Get a lawyer.

I want to end with a very specific idea that I’ve seen suggested many times among teachers, and it is something that you CAN NOT do. You can’t do this. There are books out there, such as and especially Ken Miller’s “Finding Darwin’s God” that deal with the religion/science interface in the area of evolution. I have seen it suggested that teachers can recommend a book like “Finding Darwin’s God” to students or parents. You can not do this. Miller’s book is about reconciling religion … and a particular subset of religion, a particular area of Christianity … with science. As a science teacher, in the context of a science classroom, if you recommend this book, you would be promoting religion in general, and a specific religion in particular. It may sound like a good idea, and it may seem perfectly sensible and innocent. But you would be violating the Establishment Clause. To my knowledge, this exact scenario has not been tested in the courts, but I don’t think you want to be the teacher on the witness stand when it is.

(Personally, I think if you take this tack, you should lose your job.)

The truth is that the legal protections supporting the teaching of real evolutionary biology in the classroom do not arise because real evolutionary biology is … ah … real, and creationism is not. The importance and veracity of the science itself is only part of the argument, even though it should be, and I think could be, the only argument. We don’t have slack-jawed yokels sneaking onto the school board so that they can force Language Arts teachers to tell the students that “i aint got no George Strait tunes, you gotta brang soma his CD’s over, ye’hear?” or to insist that the shop teacher tell the students “you know, these safety devices … especially the ones on electric saws … really are a pain in the ass, so the first thing we do every semester is learn how to disable the safety devices” and so on. Those are arguments about quality, and you can make arguments about quality all you want regarding life sciences in the classroom and no one will care even a little. Creationism is not allowed in the classroom because it is religion, not because it is stoopid. Which is a great convenience for you as a life science teacher, but rather shameful, at the broader social and political level, when you think about it.

Thank you very much, that is all the thinking I will be doing today.

Comments

  1. #1 MartinDH
    January 5, 2010

    Good article. I wonder if one could make a suggestion for a discussion group outside the school. Say, a local Starbucks.

    Also: “… I think if you take this tact…” should be “… I think if you take this tack…”. As in direction to sail i.e. course. It’s almost as bad as the “tenant”/”tenet” confusion often seen in posts.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    I know, I keep fixing that but it keeps coming back.

    However, if one thinks that is really “bad” one could argue that one should take a different tack as to what is important in life! Or, perhaps one could simply have more tact. While tacking.

    Anyway, one appreciates the correction.

  3. #3 Kathy Orlinsky
    January 5, 2010

    I wonder if it would be worth while having a brief statement about the things the student brings up. Even if it has nothing to do with the day’s topic, couldn’t you stick in, ‘someone asked me about carbon dating, and I wanted to let you know that we’re not covering it here because carbon dating is only useful for dates younger than 60,000 years.’ Or ‘I heard a question about the second law of thermodynamics, and I wanted to be sure you all recognize that the earth is not a closed system, and that we get energy from the sun.’

    Wouldn’t that be better than to just insist that those questions be dropped?

  4. #4 DuWayne
    January 5, 2010

    Good article. I wonder if one could make a suggestion for a discussion group outside the school. Say, a local Starbucks.

    Oh hell no! Suggesting to meet with students outside of school is a whole new level of trying to get sued. Most districts getting fired would only be the beginning. Getting sued is probably inevitable and if any student has a beef with you, you are opening yourself up to potential criminal charges.

    This is unfortunately a very fine line to deal with. There is little you can do without getting in trouble. You cannot tell the student outright that they are wrong, the best you can do ultimately is to tell the student what is correct. To be quite safe (especially if you are getting tagged after class) is to simply tell them that is very interesting and walk away. If they ask you specific questions about the veracity of their claims, respond to them with the truth – being very careful not to say outright they are wrong or make values judgments about what they are saying. But excepting what is specifically relevant to the material you are teaching, there is nothing wrong with simply telling the student what they have to say is interesting and if they have questions about it they should talk to the (for example) geology teacher, or look it up.

    And having a chat with people in Admin, as Greg suggests is always a good idea.

  5. #5 Jim Thomerson
    January 5, 2010

    Our university junior level evolution course was required for our secondary education biology majors. I spent a couple of lectures on creationism because our students would probably encounter it in the classroom or community sooner or later. There is a difference between teaching creationism, which is a religious activity, and teaching about creationism, which is a skeptical activity. University courses generally teach about things.

    My response to the carbon dating question (which never came up) would be,”When I took historical geology, in 1956, the professor spent two full lectures on the mistakes and problems one can have with radioactive dating, so these problems are well understood.”

  6. #6 skeeto
    January 5, 2010

    Interesting article. I wasn’t aware of the legal quandary that science teachers could find themselves in.
    Keep-religion-out-of-the-science-classroom can be a double-edged sword, it seems.

  7. #7 Tamara
    January 5, 2010

    So how would you suggest a 16 year old should handle a creationist or AGW denialist teacher?

    I had a biology teacher in high school who was a dyed in the wool creationist. Annoyed me to death, but I was far too timid to say anything.

    Given that there is a chance (increasingly remote) that my children will encounter formal schooling, I can pass on any advice you might have.

    Tamara

    Tamara

  8. #8 Lyle
    January 5, 2010

    I would say that science is based upon uniformitarianism which implies that there are no super natural interventions in the world. We will be using this as a postulate or premise for our thinking this quarter. If you choose to disagree with the premise/postulate that is fine, but for this class it is required. We are building a system developed on premises just like geometry is developed on postulates. Introduce the parallel postulate problem that there are 3 equally valid geometries that can be derived from the answer to the question of how many lines go thru a point parallel to a given line.
    So we will proceed on the basis of this postulate to describe the world, and see if we can make predictions on what life is. If you want to disbelieve the postulate that is fine, but for the purposes of this class it will be assumed.
    Note that we are not saying the science taught is true in an absolute sense just like Euclidean Geometry is not true.
    It is amazing that this basic lesson from high school geometry is often overlooked in the discussion, that no logic system can prove everything, some things have to be taken on faith (postulates).

  9. #9 Nathan Myers
    January 5, 2010

    Tamara: The best thing a 16 year old can do about bad high school teachers is to get the hell out of high school. If there’s a community college nearby, you can get much, much better education there — from teachers who actually studied something and maybe even did something — in much less time. The other students in those classes aren’t there just because they have to be there. The teachers are usually way more educated than a community college strictly needs.

    You don’t need to actually sit through high school classes to have a social life, and with teachers like that there’s nothing else it can offer you.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Tamara: Whether or not a kid goes to regular high school is rarely a decision one can actually make and public vs. private is the same. Few have the luxury to decide. One in three biology teachers in Minnesota is a creationist. This is probably typical or even low across the country.

    This problem is not one that the child should have to deal with. I assure you that this is a problem that I, as my daughter’s parent, deal with quite directly and firmly.

    Very very firmly.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Tamara: I should add that in most states there is an organization like the Minnesota Citizens for Science Education that parents can contact (and join!) and there is the National Center for Science Education nationally to help exactly with this situati.

    http://www.mnscience.org/index.php?id=11

    http://ncse.com/

  12. #12 MadScientist
    January 5, 2010

    I would not say that life works against entropy – it does not. When you consider the inputs to the system, entropy always increases. If anything, organisms help increase entropy at a rate greater than simple random motion. Compare a pebble to, say, a mushroom. Over a short period of time (hours/days) the entropy of the pebble barely changes, but that of the mushroom increases.

    I would tell the student that many people his (her?) age think they know everything, and with any luck one thing they will learn at university is that they really don’t know much at all. I would also recommend some classes that the student might take when appropriate to learn about carbon dating and so on.

  13. #13 MadScientist
    January 5, 2010

    Re: Jeanne d’Arc: she wouldn’t have been a 10th grader; she would have been at the Lycee. Well, assuming one existed back then. I can’t recall when a “public education” actually became available to the general public but I think the Danes and Dutch were among the first to have such an educational system. The opening up of the educational system is something which happened ~600 to 400 years ago (despite the existence of “public schools” – that is, not private tutors – generally restricted to nobility and the occasional merchant’s sons – Oxford University has records indicating they have taught since ~1100, the era of the Norman Conquest). Since Jeanne was from pre-revolutionary France, I doubt that she would have accomplished more than learning to read and write from the parish school. We’re talking 4th grade and below. She wouldn’t have even learnt Latin.

  14. #14 Vince Whirlwind
    January 5, 2010

    What parish school?!?! We’re talking the 1400s!

    What very few educational institutions existed in the 15thC were privately endowed and *certainly* not available to peasants, even less *female* peasants!

    In “Society and Culture in Early Modern France”, Natalie Zemon Davis:

    “An examination of contracts involving 1200 people in Lyon in the 1560′s and 1570′s to see whether those people could simply sign their names reveals that, of the women, only 28 percent could sign their names. These were almost all from the elite families of well-off merchants and publishers, plus a few wives of surgeons and goldsmiths.”

    So the chances of a farmer’s daughter 150 years earlier of being literate? Nil.

  15. #15 namnezia
    January 5, 2010

    Most creationist arguments can be easily debunked with a simple, science-based answer. If the student is posing those creationist questions as “science” questions, then why can’t you simply explain why they are wrong – why carbon dating is not useful for evolutionary time scales, why laws of thermodynamics are not violated, why apparent gaps in the fossil records exist and not a problem. All this can be done without talking religion. Where is the basis for a lawsuit here!?! Walking away dismissively as you suggest is more likely to create the impression that you are really hiding the “truth” about evolution, and likely to egg the student on.

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    namnezia: nice way of thinking about it, but what you suggest usually won’t work. The student who is there to push this is really trained and has the intention to disrupt the class. When the lesson plan for the day is photosynthesis questions about the fossil record, creationist questions or not, are not appropriate. It is perfectly OK to digress now and then and when a student asks a question (even of off topic for the day, but still on topic for the course) then it is a great opportunity.

    But that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about a student asking several questions in a given day about off topic material, a student asking questions in a way that require a very long answer to defuse the information provided when the question was asked (these are not really questions… these are rhetorical statemetns with tiny questions added to the end) and sometimes the student is actually handing out material or reading from the bible.

    The occassional quesiton is not the problem.

  17. #17 DuWayne
    January 5, 2010

    namnezia -

    That is all fine and good in practice, but the reality of the situation is that even if you do something that is not going to get you sued, it can still get you fired. And if you simply tell the student they are wrong, you can get sued. That is not true if you explain the truth persay, but you have to be extremely careful how you put it – it is unfortunate but true.

    Teachers get in serious trouble for handling this shit wrong. Teachers who are completely in the right – handle everything perfectly – can still find themselves dealing with huge trouble. Administrators in some schools will find any excuse they can after that to get rid of said teacher. And while there are organizations that can help those teachers, at best they are going to deal with a huge fucking mess.

    The safest thing to do is to address questions that arise about what you actually teach, taking care not to tell the student they are wrong and let the rest go. To do much else is to invite disaster – problems you really probably don’t want and certainly don’t need. The religionist asshats that are egging these kids on know the law, are angry and are all about doing anything and everything they can to ruin teachers who teach things like Evilution. They want to make a big old stink every chance they can. It isn’t nice, it isn’t very Christ like (from my pre-atheist faith) it is just the reality of the situation.

  18. #18 namnezia
    January 5, 2010

    and sometimes the student is actually handing out material or reading from the bible.

    Well yes, a student randomly and copiously disrupting the class with totally off topic material is definitely a different story! Does this really happen, that students will actually pull out a bible in the middle of biology class and start quoting it and handing out material? At least in my neck of the woods, I’ve never heard of anything this blatant happening.

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Yes, it happens. This particular story was inspired by such an event. That student was eventually pulled out of school by mom, home schooled during the “biology” year, and then went back to school. I do not know if the school is actually letting her get away with only pretending to take biology or not. I doubt I’ll ever know that, as it is probably private information.

    Students do these things. I’ve had worse even in my own college classroom. Like the student who handed out a survey asking people questions to determine if their morality had dropped after having heard my lectures.

    She was trying to use this survey as her project. I told her she could not do a survey without permission from me (as the instructor of the class) and permission from her advisor (me) and permission from the IRB via a submission to them. By me.

    She went to administrative authorities to have me disciplined for standing in her way etc. etc. I was, of course, fully supported by the admin, and she moved to a different state.

    Those last to bits were unrelated but convenient.

  20. #20 DuWayne
    January 5, 2010

    Granted this is rather more years ago than I would like to admit to and I didn’t exactly do it in class – not really…I did get in trouble for trying to pass out little baggies of fudge, attached to some really sick fucking Chick tracts, just before and maybe slightly after the bell rang in my homeroom in sixth grade. But I mean come on – it was fucking homeroom!!!

    In all seriousness though, I am glad that I got in trouble and had to take them all back. Chick tracts are fucking vile nastiness that scared the fucking daylights out of me. That, and I got to eat the fudge…

    And yes, this shit happens today. All too often actually – the worst is when it happens in places that the kids get away with it. A really great combo is the student that attends church with the creationist science teacher – teacher can teach those evilutionist lies, secure in the knowledge that one of his students is going to ask questions and possibly pass something out – like a sick fucking Chick tract about evilution, that shows all those evilutionists burning in hell at the end. The best is the one that shows those ixian evilutionists in hell, for having thought the world was more than six thousand years old and goddidit through evilution…

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    January 5, 2010

    Do I need to know what a “Chick tracts” is/are? Or can I just skip past this…

  22. #22 Stephanie Z
    January 5, 2010

    Chick is the name of the maker of the tracts, Greg. Aside from that…well, some things you just can’t unsee.

  23. #23 DuWayne
    January 5, 2010

    If you don’t know, don’t google them. They are truly vile and reprehensible fucking garbage targeted to kids. When someone equates religion to child abuse, the first thing I think of are fucking Chick tracts. I am pretty sure a great deal of my flat terror of hell was directly related to having grown up with that fucking garbage.

  24. #24 Ivan
    January 6, 2010

    Here’s a sketch to provide a little levity.

  25. #25 noel
    January 6, 2010

    A simple way to put off some types of questions without appearing defensive is to say, “People are of course free to believe whatever they want, but science is concerned with what the evidence shows; religious beliefs do not share that restriction.”
    I find that showing a condescending attitude toward such students, rather than appearing irritated or defensive, makes them feel uncomfortable about bringing up similar issues again. They know that they don’t actually know what the fuck they’re talking about and that they risk looking foolish. I got one student to admit that he couldn’t believe in evolution even if that’s what the evidence shows to be true. He seemed sort of apologetic about it. That looks pretty weak in a science classroom.

  26. #26 KeithB
    January 6, 2010

    Here is a discussion on Snopes about the latest Chick Tract. By following the discussion you can get the gist without reading the tract. 8^)

    http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=55404

    Oh, and Greg, since my refrigerator “goes against the entropy gradient”, is it alive?

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Keith: Does your refrigerator do this using ATP and either respiration or photosynthesis, as plants and/or animals do? (When they are alive)

  28. #28 KeithB
    January 6, 2010

    But surely life does not require ATP or chlorophyll. Mightn’t some alien planet xenobiology evolve equivalent chemical pathways?

  29. #29 Greg Laden
    January 6, 2010

    Keith, your refrigerator is not alive. Perhaps the contents are. Perhaps it needs a good cleaning.

  30. #30 Jonathan
    January 7, 2010

    What does the law say about students asking questions of a religious nature in class? Are they prohibited from doing that?

  31. #31 Jeremy
    January 7, 2010

    In a kind of related manner, when I was at high school I used to ask a lot of questions that were well outside the curriculum. I wasn’t a trouble maker or a creationist, just a very curious kid who was interested in science. Perhaps because I grasped the in class stuff so quickly and easily, my teacher often used to send me to the library to spend the class researching my question and to write a short report about the answer. He used to mark my reports, but I don’t think they ever actually counted towards my final grades.

    I think that could potentially be a good solution to these kinds of questions as well, or something along those lines.

  32. #32 noel
    January 7, 2010

    @Jeremy: As a high school science teacher, I love to hear questions from curiousity. (Even from other teachers: the math teacher across the hall just asked me how “Newton’s Law of Heat Transfer” deals with absolute zero.)
    But Greg is talking about assholes who are trying to monkey wrench the class and need to shut up.

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    January 7, 2010

    Jonathan, that is a difficult question. Students are not prohibited by any law that I know of from asking any particular kind of question. However, a question can be something other than a question. A student may say “I saw on TV where a person’s head got crushed and they died, does that really happen” … that may be an off topic question that is distracting and the teacher may field it a number of different way. But if the students asks “I saw on TV where some slut bitch got her head crushed and she died, if I did the same thing to Suzie (Suzie is sitting next to the student) and she’s a slut bitch to and I just might do it, will she die too? Will she?” then a) it is quite possible the student has said something threatening and inappropriate and might have even violated some law or statute, and b) the teacher would actually have the responsibility to bring the student down a notch, mitigate the damage the student just did in the classroom, and probably apply some disciplinary action.

    The key point of my post is that this is not bout students asking questions.

  34. #34 Jonathan
    January 7, 2010

    The world we live in is so Orwellian. There was a time when Americans could clearly see the true nature of the problem here.

  35. #35 Irene
    January 7, 2010

    the true nature of the problem here.

    What is that?

  36. #36 Jeremy
    January 7, 2010

    Thanks Noel, I did read the post. But I think if the question is dressed up as being just a question, even if it isn’t, then saying; “Can you research how carbon dating works?” or “What is the second law of thermodynamics and does life really violate it?” and ask to know how scientists answer those questions then the student will be forced to read the scientific literature on the subject and learn the correct answer for themselves. Also if they’re not asking genuine questions but just trying to push their religious agenda than being given extra homework every time they do it will probably dissuade them, and it gives the teacher more time to look up correct answers for themselves.

  37. #37 Greg Laden
    January 7, 2010

    Jeremy, what you are suggesting is definitely doable, had been done, and can be good. But it is also the obvious thing to do, which means Preacher Joe, who has primed the student in question, is expecting it. So its a little like Lucy and the football.

  38. #38 Jonathan
    January 8, 2010

    It’s too bad you don’t have freedom of speech anymore, Greg. Of course, the founders never planned for the government to be running education anyway. They didn’t anticipate problems of seperating church and state in the school.

    Otherwise, you could tell them that there are a wide variety of opinions within the Christian community regarding creation, ranging from complete support for evolution to the opposite end of the scale. And many of these different advocates condemn each other for heresy. So, who’s to know? And they all argue about peripheral issues like Thermodynamics and carbon dating and the appearance of age.

    And then you could ask them, if God created the universe with the appearance of age, wouldn’t he be deceiving the observer? Lots of Christians say “yes” to that proposition.

    And then of course, all the other students could chime into the conversation and pretty much diffuse the discussion into a thousand different directions.

    Too bad we have to be politically correct. That’s why the founders mandated freedom of expression.

  39. #39 Stephanie Z
    January 8, 2010

    Or, you know, people could teach science in schools instead of allowing one student to continually take action that splinters “the discussion into a thousand different directions.” Then kids could learn.

  40. #40 Greg Laden
    January 8, 2010

    Jonathan, the issue at hand IS indeed freedom: Freedom from other people hijacking your time, your children your taxes your system of education, and your government so they can ram their crazy-ass religion down your throat.

    We are, in fact, talking about constitutional protection from imposition of religion doctrine. And it is, indeed, to bad that there are people who can’t restrain themselves in this area. They are no better than thieves, really.

    The suggestions you make are good, sound suggestions. Well, actually, they are good sounding suggestions. But, as you know, because I trust that you are very much aware of what you are saying, the objective is not to make a particular biblical point, but to either a) disrupt the bought and paid for (by taxes, people’s hard work, and careers) teaching of science and b) to “introduce the controversy” (que angels singing to organ music in the back ground).

    This is not about being politically correct. This is about being legal, politically smart, and putting the education of the children in our public schools FIRST where it should be, instead of in your stinking pocket.

    Politically correct indeed. No, Johathan, the founders wrote the first amendment to protect people like me from people like you. If you don’t like that, move to fucking New Zealand.

  41. #41 Jonathan
    January 8, 2010

    Wow! Touchy about this, are we Greg? You even threw the f-bomb. I figured you would see that I imply YOU are being held hostage to political correctness here. Not a perpetrator of it.

    You have no need to be protected from me in your 1st amendment rights. I’m not forbidding you from doing anything. I’m saying it’s too bad you can’t engage the kid to stop him from distracting your class with stupid distractions.

    Ironic you say that anyway, since you endure curtailment of intellectual perogatives to deal with a disruption in your own classroom. Are you pissed because the KID isn’t muzzled by the law? Is that it? My suggestion is aimed at being a possible solution to shut him down in a manner that would help you come out on top in the eyes of the class.

    The real issue is that the federal government has no business running education. Its a state and local responsibility, or should be.

  42. #42 Jonathan
    January 9, 2010

    The NCSE website discusses a new book on this issue. CLick the PDF link for Chapter Four and scroll down to page 77, which is Point Seven dealing with the student’s rights to speak vs. your ability to keep your class on topic.

    http://ncse.com/news/2009/09/religion-public-schools-005079

    If your admin is telling you that you can’t stop this, they’re wrong. Because the student’s free speech rights stop at the line where he controls the class into off topic discussions. The law says so.

  43. #43 DuWayne
    January 9, 2010

    Jonathon –

    While the federal government has too much hand in the running of public schools through funding, that is not the issue here.

    This isn’t an issue of federal law or state laws, it is an issue of the constitution. I am bloody fucking glad that the constitution applies to the states, because if it didn’t, we would all have a hell of a lot less freedom – though the degree and types of restrictions would vary from state to state.

    The involvement of the federal government in this context is minimal and peripheral – as well as incredibly critical. Without the same constitutional protections that mean public school teachers have to step carefully in the context being discussed in Greg’s post and this thread, are what protect us from seeing majority religions taught wholesale in public schools.

    You would like to see public schools exempt from constitutional protections? Whether you intend it or not, you are saying you would like to see mandatory prayer in schools – in nearly every state. You are saying you would like to see creationism taught in the public schools in a great many states, with evolution either ignored or “debunked” by creationist “science.” You are saying that you would like to see the majority faith being taught as absolute truth and classes adjusted accordingly.

    The bottom line is that there are few places where actual science would take a front seat over the majority fucking delusions.

    I for one, am more than happy to step carefully around the random fucking asshat student, sent by asshat pastors or parents to disrupt in this way – the alternative is too frightening to contemplate.

  44. #44 DuWayne
    January 9, 2010

    If your admin is telling you that you can’t stop this, they’re wrong.

    Yes they are. And they would not only be wrong, it would also be illegal for them to make your life a living hell because you did cut it off abruptly or without an interest in answering student “questions.” But making said teacher’s life a living hell happens often and sometimes they even get away with it – there are ways they can get away with firing or disciplining a teacher for that, without making it about that. That happens all the time.

    Even if the teacher successfully sues for their job or whatever, they are still pretty screwed. They either have to go back into a hostile work environment or they have to try to find a job at another school – contrary to popular belief, being a whistleblower or being right, doesn’t make another school to keen on hiring someone who was part of some big stink at their last job.

    Being on the side of the law, doesn’t = sunshine and fucking roses. Sometimes it = misery and trying to find a new profession where you can get past having made a big stink somewhere you used to work.

  45. #45 Jonathan
    January 9, 2010

    DuWayne?

    What are you talking about? Where am I saying creationism ought to be taught in the classroom? All I’m making are counter arguments that any advocate AGAINST creationism might give, if he as an adult teacher could respond to a question asked TO him by a youngster without fear.

    Otherwise, what’s the problem? Tell the kid you can’t answer his question, and keep moving. He doesn’t have the right to take over your class. Is there an objection to this?

    Otherwise, clarify exactly what it is you CAN do to respond to the kid, and do those things.

    This isn’t rocket science. You’re the adult. Take charge. Or, find another career where you don’t have to put up with so much malarkey.

  46. #46 DuWayne
    January 9, 2010

    Read my comment over again – both of them and think about it for a minute. It really isn’t as simple as you make it out to be, for the reasons I list.

    And for the record, I am not a primary school teacher. I intend to go into academia, but when I teach it will be at a university level. I just pay a lot of attention to this issue and the problems that come up, when they actually make news. Based on the experiences of a whole lot of teachers, your solution is easier said than done.

  47. #47 Jonathan
    January 9, 2010

    Don’t want to reread your comments. You lost me when you made those bizarre baseless accusations and came off sounding more paranoid than the fundies you’re looking out for.

    If you are truly happy to just step around the random asshat student, then what’s the problem? Otherwise, fix the problem if your ideological knee-jerk can be anesthetized long enough for you to recognize what the problem is. And I’ll assume you apologized for the unwarranted attack.

    Sometimes we just have to have balls to operate in this world, and hope for the best.

  48. #48 DuWayne
    January 9, 2010

    What the fuck attack are you talking about? I was responding to your notion that the federal government should stay out of public schools, as if the involvement it does have is relevant to the conversation at hand. The only involvement that the federal government has in public schools that is relevant, is the constitution. Remove that protection from public schools and bringing more religion into the schools will be the result.

    Sometimes actually reading what someone has written will put something you find distasteful or an attack into a context that completely changes the nature of what you think is being said.

  49. #49 Jonathan
    January 9, 2010

    You’re a moron. God help us if they turn a chimpanzee like you lose in the university.

  50. #50 DuWayne
    January 9, 2010

    Says the fucking jackass who refuses to read what someone else actually said, because he has a thin skin and would rather pretend someone insulted him. If you don’t understand what I was actually saying or are too much a coward to actually read it, you are far too fucking stupid to say anything about the intelligence of others.

  51. #51 Jonathan
    January 10, 2010

    Waaaa. Waaaaa. Have your bottle little DuWayney. Mommy will change your diaper for you.

  52. #52 Stephanie Z
    January 10, 2010

    Obvious troll is booooring.