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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Politicians and Science Curriculum

(This essay is from a "Letter to the Editor" I have sent to several local newspapers.)

Rep. Sally Kern, a former Oklahoma City Social Studies teacher, has introduced a bill to “allow” science teachers to present alternative theories to evolution which attempt to account for the origin and development of life on Earth. Her argument seems to be that her bill strikes a blow for academic freedom and debate on what she sees as a controversial issue. In her passive/aggressive way she is saying “what’s wrong with giving teachers the freedom to teach alternative ideas.”

Well, first, politicians should not dictate what should or should not go on in the classroom curriculum. Ms. Kern should know that curriculum should be left to those who know something about it. As an English teacher, I would no more dictate what the math teacher should be doing in her class than I would want the math teacher making regulations for my class.

Second, if a science teacher teaches his pet theories for the origin of the species be it intelligent design, creation science, or Sky-Woman and Big Turtle (an Iroquois myth) rather than the science curriculum, his students are faced with a dilemma. Do I go along with what the textbook and curriculum say, or do I go along my teacher’s bias? In other words, the student may face the possibility of being penalized if she does not bend her responses to the teacher’s subjective opinion.

This is a problem students often face in courses where there is not the mathmatical or scientific certainty of math and science. Students in Social Studies classes often complain that their grade suffered because their social studies teacher wanted a particular answer to a question. We do not need this sort of chance for bias introduced into the science class curriculum.

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