Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Educational standards
PZ at Pharangula and Chris Mooney have the latest on the Dover, PA school district creationism brou-ha-ha.

At its root, the story is a fairly typical public school creationism story. When the Dover Area School Board met last summer to choose a new high school biology text, the board was deadlocked and one fundamentalist member offered to break the deadlock if the board would adopt a creationist textbook along with the biology textbook. In October, the board agreed, becoming the first school board to officially require the teaching of intelligent design creationism. This brought national attention on tiny Dover. All the usual suspects took sides. Lawsuits were threatened. Teachers and board members quit in protest.

This week, a "compromise" was made. The school district would accept a donation of fifty copies of the creationist text to be kept as a resource for students that might want to study creationism. The science teachers will be required to read a statement offering the books to the students.
"The state standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and to eventually take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it is still being tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations.

"Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book 'Of Pandas and People,' is available for students to see if they would like to explore this view in an effort to gain an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves. As is true with any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind.

"The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life up to individual students and their families. As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses on the standards and preparing students to be successful on standards-based assessments."

PZ and Chris demolish the bad science in the first two paragraphs. Basically, it's a muddled rewrite of the Discovery Institute's warning label used in parts of the South. I can add nothing that would improve on what PZ and Chris say.

But, I find the last paragraph and it's admission that the school district is a "standards-driven district, [where] class instruction focuses on the standards and preparing students to be successful on standards-based assessments" to be interesting. There is no mention of teaching critical thinking or useful skills. There is no mention of making better citizens or more productive workers.

The honesty of the admission is refreshing; the content of the admission is revolting. The stated goal of the school district is to get the students to pass an official test. This is education in the era of "No Child Left Behind." This is a national embarrassment.

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