Friday, January 30, 2004

"Biological changes over time"?

Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Georgia may shun 'evolution' in schools
Georgia students could graduate from high school without learning much about evolution, and may never even hear the word uttered in class.

New middle and high school science standards proposed by state Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox strike references to "evolution" and replace them with the term "biological changes over time," a revision critics say will further weaken learning in a critical subject.

Outraged teachers already have told the state it is undercutting the science education of young Georgians.

"Just like any major issue people need to deal with, you need to know the facts," said David Bechler, head of the biology department at Valdosta State University. A member of the committee that worked on the biology standards, Bechler said he was stunned to learn that evolution was not in the final proposal.

"Whether you believe in creationism or not, evolution should be known and understood by the public," he argued.

Cox declined requests for an interview on the issue. A spokesman issued a statement Wednesday that said: "The discussion of evolution is an age-old debate and it is clear that there are those in Georgia who are passionate on both sides of the issue -- we want to hear from all of them."
Oh, please. Not the "It's only a theory" argument again.
The state curriculum does not preclude an individual public school system from taking a deeper approach to evolution, or any other topic.
Not in so many words, no... But in practice only the best teachers will do anything that the job does not require, just because bureaucrats so thoroughly define/regulate what they have to do that there aren't enough hours in the day to go much bejond. And, in my experience, very rarely will any non-teaching administrator ever do anything they are not legally required to do. You've never seen a blank expression like the one you get when you've asked them to.
And the proposed change would not require school systems to buy new textbooks that omit the word.
Heaven (so to speak) forbid.
Access North Georgia (AP) | School cuts devastating, local officials tell lawmakers
Local school officials painted an alarming picture for state legislators Wednesday of children being taken to school in worn-out buses and using tattered textbooks for their studies if Gov. Sonny Perdues education cuts are approved.

Some also warned they will be forced to look to layoffs and to raise local taxes to absorb the hit.
"Oh, please, nothing special on our account, we can get by for a few more years with these tattered, outdated textbooks. Why, look at this one, it says 'One day man will walk on the moon.' That's true again, isn't it?"

Back to the AJC:
But Georgia's curriculum exam, the CRCT, will be rewritten to align with the new curriculum. And the state exam is the basis for federal evaluation, which encourages schools and teachers to focus on teaching the material that will be tested.
There's more to it than that, of course. Due to the importance of the CRCT, teachers "teach the test", although most non-teaching administrators and some teachers will deny this. The superintendent's guidelines will define the wording used on the test, which will in turn define how the subjects are taught.

Or not taught.
New York Times (registration) | Georgia Takes on 'Evolution'
A proposed set of guidelines for middle and high school science classes in Georgia has caused a furor after state education officials removed the word "evolution" and scaled back ideas about the age of Earth and the natural selection of species.
What? What?
Georgia's schools superintendent, Kathy Cox, held a news conference near the Capitol on Thursday, a day after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article about the proposed changes.

A handful of states already omit the word "evolution" from their teaching guidelines, and Ms. Cox called it "a buzz word that causes a lot of negative reaction." She added that people often associate it with "that monkeys-to-man sort of thing."
And where would they have learned that kind of nonsense, if not in Georgia's public schools? Isn't that the kind of ignorance that we hire teachers to address? Are you conceding defeat? Are the people of Georgia inherently uneducatable?
Still, Ms. Cox, who was elected to the post in 2002, said the concept would be taught, as well as "emerging models of change" that challenge Darwin's theories. "Galileo was not considered reputable when he came out with his theory," she said.

Much of the state's 800-page curriculum was adopted verbatim from the "Standards for Excellence in Education," an academic framework produced by the Council for Basic Education, a nonprofit group. But when it came to science, the Georgia Education Department omitted large chunks of material, including references to Earth's age and the concept that all organisms on Earth are related through common ancestry. "Evolution" was replaced with "changes over time," and in another phrase that referred to the "long history of the Earth," the authors removed the word "long." Many proponents of creationism say Earth is at most several thousand years old, based on a literal reading of the Bible.
Oh, God (you should excuse the expression)...
Georgia Department of Education | Superintendent Cox Addresses Concerns About Proposed Science Curriculum
At a new conference that took place at 3:00 PM on Thursday, January 29th, Georgia’s State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox addressed the misconceptions about the draft of our state’s new Georgia Performance Standards Biology Curriculum.
A "new conference"?
Those who read the draft of the science curriculum will find that the concepts of Darwinism, adaptation, natural selection, mutation, and speciation are actually interwoven throughout the standards at each grade level. Students will learn of the succession through history of scientific models of change, such as those of Lamarck, Malthus, Wallace, Buffone, and Darwin.

They will become scientifically literate by learning the process of scientific inquiry and seeing the way science changes as a result of new discoveries and theories.

They will become familiar with the development of living organisms and their changes over time, including inherited characteristics that lead to survival of organisms and their successive generations.

And they will be prepared for college by having been exposed in detail to the models that the scientific community currently embraces.

Why, then, is the word itself not used in the draft of the curriculum, when the concepts are there? The unfortunate truth is that "evolution" has become a controversial buzzword that could prevent some from reading the proposed biology curriculum comprehensive document with multiple scientific models woven throughout. We don't want the public or our students to get stuck on a word when the curriculum actually includes the most widely accepted theories for biology. Ironically, people have become upset about the exclusion of the word again, without having read the document.
I don't want educators to "get stuck on a word" to the point that they refuse to use the scientifically-accepted term for an all-but-proven phenomenon that explains the biological world of which they are a part. If people don't like the word "evolution", it's because they don't understand the concept it identifies. Explaining that is called "education", and it's what I pay you for.

The "unfortunate truth" is that you're trying to convince one set of observers that you are teaching evolution while convincing the other set that you aren't. The "unfortunate truth" is that you're saying, and teaching, that evolution and creation are no more than conflicting theories, and one is no more credible than the other.

The "unfortunate truth" is that no world-class biologists are going to emerge from Georgia schools anytime soon.

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