Bringing Evolution vs. Creationism debate into high school classes a waste of valuable timeMar 20th, 2010 | By msuunder | Category: Commentary, Featured Articles, Opinions
by Evan Pennington
The debate between evolution and religious creation is always fun for me to watch, perhaps because it typically leaves proponents on one side or the other with a rage-induced aneurism after choking on the bitter pill of defeat.
I fail to understand, however, why this debate repeatedly arises in our public high schools, spurred by our teachers, no less.
If you ask me, it’s a shame that the argument is even given consideration in public high schools to begin with.
Amidst the soggy clump of mail I retrieved from a severely over-crowded box after a Spring Break jaunt to Florida, I found a rather ornate invitation to a “Christian Creation Conference” right here in Springfield, which is supposed to take place later this month.
Fantastic. Here in the “buckle of the Bible Belt” as Springfield is sometimes lovingly penned, it seems that one can hardly go through the day without over-hearing (or being caught in) the argument for either creationism or the evolutionary theory.
Since and before the Scopes showdown of the 1920s, this debate has pervaded the press, the pulpit and the university without end.
Recently, this centuries-old cesspool of fury and literary styling has leaked into our courts system for it seems the 4.6 billionth time.
A lawsuit filed in the spring of 2008 against California high school teacher James Corbett was decided earlier this month. Corbett was sued by the parents of one of his students for “using his classroom as a ‘bully pulpit’ to express ‘derogatory, disparaging, and belittling’ views about religion and Christianity.”
The plaintiff student apparently recorded a series of Corbett’s classroom lectures as ammunition for the lawsuit, including one in which Corbett described the creationism story in the Christian Bible to be “religious, superstitious nonsense.”
The court dismissed both the plaintiff’s demands for damages and an injunction which would’ve prevented Corbett from expressing any disdain for religion in the classroom; however, it was upheld that any belittling of creationism by a teacher constituted an “improper disapproval of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause” of the U.S. Constitution. Apparently, both sides intend to appeal.
The argument over creationism vs. evolution being taught in public schools has drawn grievances from philosophers, scientists, parents, lawyers, preachers, teachers, and maybe even Texas, yet what the argument lacks these days is the perspective from the most novel crowd of all: the students.
I’m not suggesting that we ask students what they want to learn in school. Most would probably just say “nothing.” Let’s be honest with ourselves though—this argument stopped being about the well-being of our students a long time ago. Like any heated topic these days, what it’s really about is being right.
The creationist people are chomping at the bit for the opportunity to outsmart or humiliate the heathen evolutionists, while the evolution people are foaming at the mouth at the thought of students being told that anything but a Big Bang and four billion years of Einstein’s, Hawking’s, and Dawkin’s created the world and built the A-bomb.
Has anyone ever asked proponents on both sides, “Why does either argument belong in our public schools?” Any answer would surely have nothing to do with what is best for the students.
I mean, how exactly does evolutionary theory inform our current ninth-through-twelfth grade science curriculum?
Does it have any bearing whatsoever on chemistry? Physics? Baking soda volcanoes? By the same token, let’s face it, studying creationism likely leads into studying theology, which also has no place in public school.
As a future teacher, I’m all about prompting our students to think critically, but not over issues so trivial and useless when compared to the rest of the curriculum.
This guy Corbett, for example, was a European History teacher. European History, people. Is there not enough history to pass the day with? Must we resort instead to creationism vs. evolution? Please.
In summation, Corbett was being an ideological quack who used his classroom not as a “bully pulpit,” but rather as a soapbox on which to vent his frustrations about creationism. He apparently found this more suiting than teaching history and facilitating the learning of his students.
And this kid who recorded Corbett’s lectures so that mom and dad could swat the mean-old-teacher on the wrist with a nasty lawsuit? A quack if I ever saw one. He probably spent more time cooking up that little scheme with the tape recorder than he did on his homework.
Both sides plan to appeal. Both sides believe they’re right. Neither side really cares about what happens to our students. Let’s all just stick with what works, shall we? Readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmatic rarely cheese anyone off, after all.