Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Indiana legislators as teachers? Don't make me laugh... please

Here we go again. Our backward thinking, God-fearing (and I do not mean that in a good way) Indiana state legislators are at it again. This current session has been one of the most contentious, hateful (to individual freedoms) in recent memory. A bill has been introduced to instruct our public schools to begin teaching creationism to our children in science classes alongside the teaching of evolution.

To this, I say, oh hell NO!!!

If my vote means anything, I vote no. If teaching creationism must be inserted into our high school curriculum, it belongs in a religious studies unit, NOT in a science class.

If you really want—no, if you really need--your children to learn religious doctrine, please, please, please, do it yourself in the privacy of your own homes and in your churches... or send your children to a religious school. But let us not pollute our science classes with this hocus pocus, phony excuse for science!

Today, if I were still teaching (I taught English and U.S. History for eight years), and if I were told I would have to do teach religious doctrine in my classroom, I would quit my job.

Simply because I am not a pastor nor am I qualified to lead our children in religious dogma (nor do I want that responsibility), but I would bet your local minister is.

Religion and science, religion in public schools do not belong together. Not now, not ever!

One presiding problem with teaching evolution vs. creationism is this. Science teachers teach evolution is a theory, one that is evolving as we learn more and more through the fundamentals of study, research and practice.

It has been my experience that religious folk want creationism taught as a fact, no questions asked. You find me one religious person who will say that it is okay to say "there may be a God" and I'll eat my hat.

There is a big difference. Scientists don't claim to have all the answers. The fundies, however, look at God as being the be-all, end-all. I'm sorry, but a 2,000 year old book does not bring me answers, not ones that I wholeheartedly endorse. How can I? How can I believe a book that says it is okay to marry one's daughters? Or one that advocates stoning petulant wives or children?

Tonight, on a Facebook message board one person stated that one need do no more to find answers about creation than citing Genesis in the Bible. Again, I am sorry, but citing passages from Genesis is not proof of anything other than proof that you can read the Bible, and for that, I direct you to thank your elementary school English and reading teacher. is this.

Science teachers teach evolution is a theory, one that is evolving as we learn more and more through the fundamentals of study, research and practice.

Another gentleman, through the course of discussion said he refused to believe in evolution because he cannot accept that man came from apes. Funny, science has never said we came from apes. I suppose far too many people are confusing life here on Earth with "The Planet of the Apes." I had to laugh at yet another who said that the Bible even refers to the dinosaurs, calling them dragons. Sorry, but the concept of dinosaurs did not really occur until the latter part of the 19th century after fossil remains were discovered by a number or archeologists. I can almost envision some of these fundies pointing to “The Flintstones” as further evidence of man living with dinosaurs.

Whenever this argument comes up inevitably the subject of the U.S. Constitution comes up. Clearly, the First Amendment shows that our founding fathers believed we should have a separation of church and state. True fundies will, naturally, hear nothing of it.

Boldly proclaiming they know far more about what our founders had in mind. Really? How do they know this? Were they there when Thomas Jefferson and others wrote our most cherished national documents? Of course, the opposite could be said of me... was I there? No, but the following words…

"The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion..." pretty damning evidence what the founders had in mind when they framed the document to guide our leaders and our citizens in the days to come. I have heard fundamentalists time after time claim that those words do not implicitly forbid law and religion from climbing into bed together.

Yet if passing a law that permitting the instruction of creationism in public schools' science classes is NOT "respecting the establishment of religion," I don't know what is!

And if you think by not teaching creationism is impeding your exercising of your freedom of thought, think again. No one is saying you cannot believe in the God of your choosing; there are no thought police waiting out there to brainwash you into atheism.\

I would ask if you want, or need a teacher telling your children that "there *may* be a God." For religious folk, that is most certainly unthinkable. I'd hate to be the school secretary and later, the principal that gets an earful from that parent who said "what the hell (pardon the pun) are you teaching my child?"

A good science teacher teaches his or her students that evolution is a theory. For the fundies, they obviously want a teacher to say there IS a God--not there MAY be.

One person posted a notes saying she didn't understand the big fuss and offered the absurd idea of "why not ask the kids whether or not they want to learn about it (it being creationism)?" Honestly, I laughed.

That's great! Do we ask children if they'd like to partake in alcohol? or have sex? Do we ask them if they want to learn our fractions today? or how about would you like to learn to conjugate a sentence (oh wait, we don't hardly do that anymore, do we?)?

No, in our schools we teach our kids the fundamentals of education--math, science and reading--in school. I'd like to think we teach critical thinking skills, but I do not even think we do that anymore... Hardly. We teach rote memory. We give multiple choice tests over short answer and essay tests. Our schools have become as assembly line as our rapidly disappearing factories.

And shouldn't we teach the fundamentals of the Bible in church?

One brave soul offered the notion after research that the first textbooks in our public schools were the Bible and other religious documents.

We used to drive Model T Fords too, but no one is advocating that we do that today. We also no longer use science textbooks from the 1950s either... and for good reason. We have evolved. We have learned more (although the very implication that our leaders want us to teach creationism might invalidate that statement).

I would ask why is it sad that we do not used textbooks from the 1690s? Why should we? And I would ask someone to prove why. Seriously, just because "we always used to do it this way" is not a good enough excuse--unless you want to find a way to travel back in time and be educated in that era, that is.

Perhaps the most usual argument is "what are you people (those against teaching creationism) so afraid of? Aren't we "big" enough a people to be open to all ideas? Sure, we are. But I think those people using that argument are missing the point.

If our state legislators want to permit teaching Biblical studies, let them do it in a context as an elective, as a Biblical course (even still, I do not advise this). Our Hoosier leaders are poised to pass this legislature yet I ask them this, who is going fund it? ]

Already in recent years our legislators have cut funding on everything else to do with education, so who's going pay for it now? And who is going to teach it? Who is going to train the teachers? And whose God are they going to gear the curriculum towards?

I say it again, teaching creationism in a science class is not the correct forum.

A writer asked "has science ever created life?" I would not know where to begin with such a ludicrous argument, other than saying it bears no meaning to this conversation. Unless that person is trying to confuse the issue with mumbo jumbo mysticism, not fact nor theory (And who is to say that science won't do that someday... after all, 100 years ago, a test tube baby would have been viewed as either magic or well, um, a gift of God).

Personally, I think God gave us minds--our intellect--to use for the betterment of man.

This actually brings me to a point often overlooked. Why cannot these two camps, these two seemingly different sides work together? I will leave that for you, gentle reader, to ponder for yourselves.

Hopefully, this will be my last word on the subject (but who knows?... and I doubt it).

I do not mean to be so confrontational or combative on this subject... at least not in the way some of readers might assume. As a former teacher, I can honestly say there is not enough time in the day to teach as is. There are also not enough funds available to give the job the devotion it truly deserves , yet here we go again with our legislators who think they know what is best for our schools and for our children. Please do not saddle teachers with yet one more responsibility, one that should fall under the parents' purview.

Our legislators obviously know what it is like to step in front of a classroom full of (hopefully) open minds asking us to do more with less (I say that with the sarcasm it deserves).

Is it not funny that 99% of these people, our leaders--that is--have absolutely no training in school classroom management and curriculum yet they know what is best (as I yet again roll my eyes)? There is that old adages, "those who can, teach. Those who cannot, legislate."

The writer advocating looking to Genesis did say one thing I think most people would agree with, a place for us to find a common ground...and that would be: "It would actually nice if legislators got out of the education business altogether."

I ask this: How about we let our teachers teach? How about we let our teachers do their jobs?

Here's the best way of looking at this subject. I don't come into your homes telling you what to believe, how to raise your children nor do I come into your workplace and tell you how to do your jobs. Please permit me the same respect in my dominion.

I've said this before and cannot re-iterate enough. Religion is a truly personal thing. Again, for you parents, if you want your kids brought up with your beliefs, why would you want someone else to do your job for you? So I firmly believe (with no disrespect intended) that if you want your kids raised in a religious indoctrination, please do it in your homes or in your church. That is where it truly belongs.