Evolution education is under attack in Weston, Connecticut, but not from the usual direction.
Nobody is promoting intelligent design in the curriculum, or asking schools to teach evolution’s “strengths and weaknesses.” There’s just an administration afraid that teaching third graders too much about Charles Darwin will cause trouble.
“They might have just been looking to avoid controversy, but that has the same effect,” said Steve Newton, programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education. ” If you’re not looking to teach children the best science, that harms their education.”
At issue is a class section proposed in 2008 by Mark Tangarone, teacher of the third, fourth and fifth grade Talented and Gifted program at the Weston Intermediate School. Tangarone wanted his third graders to study and compare the accomplishments of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.
To learn about Darwin, students would have retraced the path of the HMS Beagle, the expedition that inspired a young Darwin’s theory of evolution. Each student would study a stop in the voyage, reporting on the animals and adaptations that Darwin observed.
When Tangarone ran his class plan by then-principal Mark Ribbens, he was denied.
In an email obtained by the Weston Forum, Ribbens explained that his objections had nothing to do with the soundness of the theory of evolution. Instead, he was worried about parent reaction.
“While evolution is a robust scientific theory, it is a philosophically unsatisfactory explanation for the diversity of life. I could anticipate that a number of our parents might object to this topic,” wrote Ribbens. “It is not appropriate to have [Darwin's] work or the theory part of the TAG program since the topic is not age appropriate.”
However, the class wasn’t out of step with official state science standards [.doc]. At the time, these instructed teachers to impart to third graders the ability to “describe how different plants and animals are adapted to obtain air, water, food and protection in specific land habitats.” That section of the standards was subtitled, “Heredity and Evolution — What processes are responsible for life’s unity and diversity?”
Sunday, May 02, 2010
Anti-evolution sentiment in Massachusetts and Connecticut
An anti-evolution billboard on I-90 (Mass-turnpike) near Ludlow, MA
We hear rumblings of anti-evolution battles - but usually in Texas, rural Pennsylvania, Kentucky, etc. The New England area is often spared from this particular anti-science fight. However, just last week while driving to Boston I saw an anti-evolution billboard (see pic above) on Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90E) near Ludlow, MA (exit 6)! It says "In the Beginning, God Created...", and it has the iconic, but scientifically inaccurate, symbol of evolution with an X on it. Really? This close to the 5-Colleges area? What a shame. It is hard to see in the pictures, but a CBS logo is also under the billboard. I'm assuming that this billboard is not an endorsement by CBS - the broadcasting station, rather that this is a reference to some nutty program on CBS, like the 700 Club. Initially I thought of CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) - but I double-checked, and it is indeed CBS (you can see the "eye" of CBS in the second image above). In any case, it is just odd to see such anti-science crap in this area.
Talking about our area, we also have this story of self-censorship in neighboring Connecticut: