The following story is current, but the issue is not new. But interesting. …

Science standards for Minnesota schools are about to be set for the next six years. Is the battle to keep pseudoscience out of our classrooms over? Sadly the door has been cracked open for intelligent design, an idea with no real scientific basis cooked up by creationists, to remain in Minnesota’s classrooms.

The same vague science benchmark that was a compromise in the intelligent design controversy early in the Pawlenty administration still exists, unchanged, in this round of science standards. These standards will begin next school year and be in effect until 2017.

source


The key phrases are as follows:

“Science Standards will reflect the scientific facts, laws, and theories of the natural and engineered world and will not include supernatural, occult or religious ideas. In addition, the following benchmark from the 2004 standards will be included in the revised standards for grades 9-12:

“The student will be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models including but not limited to cell theory, atomic theory, theory of evolution, plate tectonic theory, germ theory of disease and big bang theory.”

My understanding is that most people involved in the standards process are not happy about this wording, but not too worried either. Of course, they’re also not worried about what happened to our Quarterback last weekend. It is possible that Minnesotans are wimps. But another way of looking at this is as follows: If this clause is used by anyone … a teacher, a district, the state, whatever … as a lever to introduce ID into the curriculum and we (we as in we watchdogs, and we are watching) there will be a law suite, we will win, and some hapless school district or another will lose a couple of million bucks in legal fees, and that won’t happen again here in Minnesota.

In other words, this clause, if it were to directly affirm that ID could be taught in schools, would be in violation of standing case law. But it doesn’t. It’s vague. Therefore if a misinterpretation, or perhaps we could say strongly biased interpretation, of the wording leads to teaching creationism, it is still a violation. State standards do not rule, Federal case law does rule.

Comments

  1. #1 Meagain
    January 26, 2010

    So what you are saying is that students should do as they are told and not be allowed to question anything at all? In other words :

    “Shut your mouth. Evolution is real, deal with it, if you say otherwise you will be an outcast and unwelcome in society.”

    Not allowing students a title to their own opinion and questioning of science is not very free speech like. If no one could question science, we would never “progress” now would we?

    Telling a student to not question evolution becuase it is a 100% proof positive fact that is absolutely accurate in 100% of every way imaniable and can never be disproved is tye same as saying 100,000 years from the color blue will be extinct from existance. nothing on earth will be blue.

    Mesuspects fould play here. Methinks the secularites are commiting za major oopsy in dis one.

  2. #2 Stacy
    January 26, 2010

    Greg – having recently fought this battle – I feel your pain.
    Hey Meagain … reason prevailed.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    January 26, 2010

    Meagain, teaching creationism is a biology science classroom is like teaching about bigfoot in a zoology class or teaching astrology in an astronomy class. There was a time when all of these things (creationism, bigfoot, astrology) seemed like good ideas. But it’s been a while…

  4. #4 Stephanie Z
    January 26, 2010

    Meagain, don’t skimp on your English homework. It will help both with the reading comprehension and the writing.

    There already exist significant limits on the free speech of students, generally organized around the concept of disruption. I suggest this post of Greg’s to get you up to speed on how they apply to creationist idiocy in science class:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2010/01/what_to_do_with_bible_thumping_1.php

  5. #5 Kathy Orlinsky
    January 26, 2010

    I have no problem with questioning established theories. But the questions and more importantly, the answers should reflect the best knowledge we have, not some hand wringing about how everything is so darned complex it had to have been designed.

    Let the students ask whatever they like, then answer them! Yes, we have transitional fossils, but it wouldn’t matter if we didn’t because the genetic evidence for evolution is overwhelming. No, the eye didn’t have to be designed, there are modern organisms with every kind of eye from simple light detecting cells to eyes that are better than our own.

  6. #6 Lorax
    January 26, 2010

    Meagain is right. Students should have the right to question the say of scientists and other so called experts. There is no reason why one 15 year old kid and his or her bible can not overturn any well explained, tested, and supported theory. I mean hell, why can’t facts and complicated ideas be easily parried by sound bites and “common sense”?

  7. #7 Meagain
    January 26, 2010

    Okay. I agree. We will keep creationism out of “science” class. However, it should be allowed in philosophy or religious history class. What if a group of parents offered to teach an after school creationism class in their own home and students who wanted to could attend. Would that be a problem? Why or why not? It would be completely fair. Parents who do not want their children learning about Biblical/historical issues would not have to worry and parents who wanted an opposing side to evolution could get that side taught. It’s a win-win situation. Besides, most Sunday School classes teach it anyway and some even teach an entire semester of anti-evolution material. We try to keep evolution , ah hem, “science”, out of the religious sanctuary.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    January 26, 2010

    Meagain: The case law to which I refer above addresses the use of public funds in public schools.

    I don’t support the teaching of creationism in any public school classroom. Creationism is part of a particular religion, and it is unconstitutional to teach or support a religion in public schools. An intellectually “honest” teaching about creationism in social studies class would not be complementary to creationism, so you should be careful what you ask for in that regard!

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    January 26, 2010

    Lorax, very funny.

    Now, would you please do me a favor? I’d value your opinion on this issue more than anyone else’s. I know we’ve spoken briefly about this, but I’d love to have your thought now if that is possible.

  10. #10 jolly
    January 26, 2010

    I’ve never understood this argument. If the scientific method is taught, then the answers are pretty obvious. Teach your foolish religious beliefs in your tax exempt church. It is sad that parents would be willing to risk their children’s future well being and economic opportunities because of their exacting belief in a collection of old stories.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    January 26, 2010

    Jolly,

    Creationism, especially the young earth creationism that our creationist friends really prefer be taught (even though they talk about ID only these days for purely strategic reasons) is almost never taught by routine in private religious schools.

    Why?

    Because it is shit, and most private religious schools have higher standards.

    And yes, this is very very ironic.

  12. #12 JefFlyingV
    January 27, 2010

    Greg Laden or Stephanie Z, are there any organizations in Minnesota that muster the folks out and print the locations of the hearings for state education standards?

  13. #13 BobC
    January 27, 2010

    Meagan,
    People already have “classes” about creationism – these classes are where they belong – in CHURCH. It’s called SUNDAY SCHOOL. That’s where you get in indoctrinate your kiddies with the anti-facts that get them laughed at when they try to use them to argue with reality.

  14. #14 Frank Cornish
    January 27, 2010

    If ever there was an indication of the power of propaganda to confuse the issue of academic freedom and intelligent design creationism more confused than meagain’s ramble, I haven’t seen it. Poorly thought out, poorly constructed and pretentious the writer doesn’t have a clue as to how evolution is studied and taught in real science classes.

    I think it would behoove the writer to take remedial science and composition classes.

    People can and students can have and express whatever opinions that they have about life’s origins and diversity, without being sent to a secularite principal’s office for a quick reeducation session. Students can and should learn how to question evolution’s processes as understood, but the role of educators is to teach them how to do it critically and in a way that they will learn how to separate wheat from chaff. I would define chaff as the false facts that come from creationists.

  15. #15 Lorax
    January 27, 2010

    Greg, you are correct that the standards committee was not too happy with the wording because it is such a “well, duh!” statement and the key concept regarding how new information impacts theories and ideas is included elsewhere. Basically we felt that in context with the rest of the standards, this benchmark was superfluous and redundant. However, these standards did not exist when we signed on and agreed to include the benchmark.

    Regarding the idea that the committee was not too worried about it, I will tentatively agree. Before talking with you, Eugenie Scott, and others, I felt the benchmark was a waste of space, but fairly innocuous. Actually, I still feel that way. However, this leaves out human nature. As was pointed out numerous times, an unethical christian teacher will focus on specific words in the benchmark to introduce patently false information regarding creationism ignoring the completely obvious intent of the benchmark. The committee was also by-and-large unaware of the history of this benchmark, which was introduced to allow people like Freshwater to lie to students between branding sessions, and then subsequently modified to make the issue seem stupid and trivial to anyone not pushing a religious agenda.

    Once the committee got over the idea that the standards are a stand alone document, but more a document that will be interpreted by individuals who will actively attempt to find loop holes and back doors to lie to students then we were a lot more concerned about the benchmark. That being said, we could do nothing directly as we all agreed to include this benchmark that was required by the state legislature. To get the benchmark removed from future standards requires an act of the state legislature or the ruling of a judge.

    Personally and to be frank, I think the benchmark is bullshit, because people have a lot of bullshit ideas.

  16. #16 Lorax
    January 27, 2010

    Meagain you are so full of shit, I need to clean my monitor every time you post. At least you come off sounding reasonable, despite the self righteousness loathing just below the surface.

    Okay. I agree. We will keep creationism out of “science” class.
    Well, thank you for allowing scientists and teachers, to give fairly up-to-date and as accurate as possible information to our students so that they may be competent and successful members of our society. I, for one, appreciate it. Now can you do anything about the batshit crazy medieval “religious” Sunday schools? Wow, scare quotes are fun to use!

    However , it should be allowed in philosophy or religious history class.
    Why do you say this? Is there any reason for it? By the way, when you push your personally religious viewpoint, you will need to include all those other religious viewpoints as well, including the ones you disagree with. I actually agree that students should get instruction in religion in the public school, because it is such an important part of our society, and nut jobs like you, and your agendas are basically hidden from most people’s view. I expect if we actually taught religious history, how they have changed over time and the major tenets we would have a lot more educated kids telling people like you to shut the fuck up. Of course, we wouldn’t teach that, people would ensure that only the one true version of religion (which of course lines up exactly with their beliefs) would be taught as correct.

    What if a group of parents offered to teach an after school creationism class in their own home and students who wanted to could attend…. Besides, most Sunday School classes teach it anyway and some even teach an entire semester of anti-evolution material.
    So you figured out your answer, but posed the question anyway? Do you not know what the delete button does?

    What if a group of parents offered to teach an after school creationism class in their own home and students who wanted to could attend. Would that be a problem? Why or why not?
    You already know the answer to this as mentioned above. However, I think it is a problem, although perfectly legal and I wouldn’t try to prevent you from lying to your children if you want. Its your right as a parent to intellectually abuse your children.

    It would be completely fair.
    Do you actually know what “fair” means? I really don’t know what you are trying to say, and am willing to bet you don’t know either.

    Parents who do not want their children learning about Biblical/historical issues would not have to worry and parents who wanted an opposing side to evolution could get that side taught.

    I think you meant to use a ≠ not a / in the biblical/historical phrase ie biblical≠historical issues. There is no opposing side to evolution, if there were it would be taught in school. Goddidit, is not a side. Anyone can say that about any god(s) for anything and have for millenia. Why are you suddenly more right than all the others?

    It’s a win-win situation.
    Again I dont think this means what you thin kit means.

    We try to keep evolution , ah hem, “science”, out of the religious sanctuary.
    Oh shut the fuck up. You do not keep science out of the “religious” sanctuary. I bet you take cold medicine before church on sunday if you’re sick. I expect you drive or are driven there. I bet for breakfast you eat fortified foods and foods raised cheaply and efficiently using pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics. I bet you go to a heated/cooled church when the weather is inclement. Im willing to bet the sermons denouncing science are given using a microphone and speaker system. I bet you are a lying sack who loves all the benefits that science has given you over the decades while at the same time denouncing the methods science used to give you those things because you know evilution.

    The fruits of science are all around you and you use it and love it everyday. The fact that we know more about the universe because of science is the price you have to pay even if it doesn’t fit into your tiny little worldview. If you don’t like the cost, get off the fucking computer, because you know what? Science did it.

  17. #17 Frank Cornish
    January 27, 2010

    I agree with almost everything that Lorax says here, except for one thing. I don’t think that parents have the right to intellectually abuse their children, because parents have a responsibility while the children are growing up to teach them; but they don’t “own” them.

    It is a foolish idea anyway. If they want their children to follow in their own religion, the children should be given their own intellectual choice in the matter, and when the children move out of the house and pursue further education they will find out how much their parents invested in lying to them to protect their own religion and to prevent the kids from learning how science works and how the pursuit of knowledge works.

    Many of them will be very angry at their parents for doing so, some will decide that a “pre-modernist” version of knowledge attainment is more important and then pass along the lies generationally.

    As an atheist, I am heartened to a certain extent that many of them will decide that if religion depends on such lies and obfuscation then they will become atheists; however I hate to see people decide that they can’t trust their parents and to see a gulf created between them.

    meagain, consider the costs of what you want. As a parent, I wouldn’t think it is worth it.

  18. #18 Greg Laden
    January 27, 2010

    JefFlyingV: This blog, other blogs in the area, and newspapers!

    But if one is really interested, it is best to join the Minnesota Citizens for Science Education:

    http://www.mnscience.org/

  19. #19 rob
    January 27, 2010

    if any flavor of creationism is ever mentioned in science class, it should be mentioned in the same context as Lamarckism or other disproven theories–as a one-time potential theory that has been crushed by the juggernaut of experimental data from many different branches of science.

    keep propaganda out of schools.

  20. #20 Raiko
    January 27, 2010

    Good reply, Lorax.

    I am with Frank as far as the parents is concerned, but I think Lorax is right – it unfortunately IS the current right of parents to interlectually abuse their children, while it is not their right to physically abuse them (in many countries, at least). So Lorax is right – unfortunately, this right exists. Whether it should exist is a whole different question.

    As far as I am concerned, sending your kids off to an anti-evolution/pro-creationism private class would indeed not be fair at all. Children who’re willing to learn and interested in the world do not deserve to be lied to. There is no question whatsoever that the people who teach these “anti-evolution” arguments are either victims of dishonesty or dishonest themselves. Children simply deserve better than that.

  21. #21 gizmo
    January 27, 2010

    Bravo, Lorax, bravo! I, too, have noticed the jesus-soaked creobots ranting about the evils of evilution, and science in general, all the while enjoying the benefits it provides to their health, comfort, and well-being. I’d be a little more understanding of their arguments if they’d live in the same conditions that the iron-age goat-herders who wrote these fairy tales did. Otherwise, they’re written off as the blatent, ignorant, hypocrits that they are.

  22. #22 jolly
    January 27, 2010

    I think a religious history class would be interesting but it would probably have to be taught by an atheist to avoid bias. Then people could read about how the bible was created and the Christian version was voted on during Constantine’s rein. Religion has such an interesting history that it would probably make atheists out of all the students.

  23. #23 mark
    January 27, 2010

    Perhaps Creationism should be taught in math class–specifically, during the discussion of irrational numbers.

  24. #24 Troll God
    January 27, 2010

    Lorax,

    Do society a favor:

    Have a “gay” buddy stick it’s arm up your butt, grab your uvula and pull real hard. Now hold on to it for as lobg as possible. You will do us all a favor by not contributing to “global warming”.

  25. #25 kittywhumpus
    January 27, 2010

    25 people would have to request a hearing before February 19, or the standards will be adopted as is. At least, that’s the way I read it on the website:

    http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/Academic_Excellence/Academic_Standards/Science/index.html

    Is that correct?
    Would a public hearing only make matters worse?

  26. #26 Stephanie Z
    January 27, 2010

    Boy, you’d think a troll “god” could do better than that. More creative maybe. Less sad and tired and small. Oh, well. I guess that’s just one more argument for atheism.

  27. #27 Lorax
    January 27, 2010

    A public hearing is problematic, because the standards would then have to be approved (or not) by a judge. Im happy with the way recent courts have ruled in Dover, Georgia, and other cases. However, I am not thrilled with the prospects of science decided at the bench. It didn’t work out so well in Tennessee remember.

    You may not like that specific benchmark, and I agree. But if it were removed will the creationist teachers simply stop teaching creation and start teaching good evolutionary theory and ideas? Yes, its a loop hole for them, but its one that is only a loop hole in isolation from the other standards and if viewed in an extremely skewed way. A teacher that uses this benchmark as a justification to teach a 6000 year old planet will screw some kids over and cost their school district several million dollars but will not win a case.

    I would also argue that fighting over this one benchmark, does jeopardize the entire standards document. I would point out that evolution is on the front page of the standards document and is a substrand of the life sciences! This is a far cry from avoiding the issue all together or using bullshit mealy mouthed phrases like change over time. The war is still being fought, but this represents some significant changes in the position of the battle lines.

    It may seem absurd to many (it did to me not so long ago) that a basic underpinning on arguably the largest scientific area being discussed openly is a big improvement. But the reality is, it is. Remember how many candidates for president of the US from the republican party raised their hands in support of evolution? By the way, getting evolution openly into the current version of the standards was in no way simple, but that’s a story for another day…..at least the day after the rulesmaking process closes.

  28. #28 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    January 27, 2010

    In 2004 I attended a town hall at which the current standards were adopted, and what happened there was discouraging. I don’t think that it actually affected the standards, because Yecke wanted to do what she wanted to do.

    The town hall combined a discussion of the changes to the history standards as well as sci/math standards, and the proposed history standards were very much in line with what the SBOE’s “advisors” are planning to do to paint us as a conservative Christian nation.

    So, people objected to that.

    The ratio of creationists making comments re: the science standard was about 3:1 over the people actually wanting, you know, science in science classes. I had signed up to speak but by 10:30 they were not even close to getting to me, so I left.

    The committee mostly ignored the public input.

  29. #29 JefFlyingV
    January 28, 2010

    Thank you Greg for the link, I hope you don’t mind that I had posted it in Think Atheist. Cheers.
    Jeff

  30. #30 Greg Laden
    January 28, 2010

    Wait, wait, Think Atheist has one of those sexy wall calendars, right???

  31. #31 SQB
    January 29, 2010

    Boy, you’d think a troll “god” could do better than that.

    Perhaps he meant it as an imperative?

  32. #32 JefFlyingV
    January 29, 2010

    LOL Greg. Uh oh…

  33. #33 LowellGuy
    January 31, 2010

    From the first comment: Not allowing students a title to their own opinion and questioning of science is not very free speech like. If no one could question science, we would never “progress” now would we?

    Children are not the people who have advanced scientific understanding. It’s adults who were educated based on the best scientific information available. And, if you allow children to dictate what is and isn’t valid science, why should you stop there? Why not allow them to say what is valid history, or what is valid mathematics? Why would only science be held to a standard that allows children who are not yet even educated in the subject to determine what is and isn’t science?

    Unless, of course, you are merely trying to undermine science to protect the stranglehold of ignorance that allows religion to keep money flowing into coffers. It’s absolutely pathetic if that’s your motivation.

  34. #34 Типография
    February 14, 2010

    People can and students can have and express whatever opinions that they have about life’s origins and diversity, without being sent to a secularite principal’s office for a quick reeducation session. Students can and should learn how to question evolution’s processes as understood, but the role of educators is to teach them how to do it critically and in a way that they will learn how to separate wheat from chaff. I would define chaff as the false facts that come from creationists.

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