Are schools teaching us to think, or what to think?

In Our Opinion


As the new school year approaches, an old discussion topic was at hand during a recent meeting of the Medical Lake school board.

That was whether some critiques of the teachings of Darwinism ought not to be part of the curriculum.

The nearly decade-old matter was likely put in the grave by the school board at their Tuesday, July 23 meeting, however. School district officials have indicated they will follow state standards that lead to the new Common Core state standards, which will likely be in place in 2014.

Darwinism, from a few quick sources, is what’s encompassed in the change of species - evolution - generally accepted in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

In making their decision, the board told those in attendance they believe they were doing enough at this time to allow comments and questions on the matter.

The classroom today is focused almost entirely on “teaching to the test,” the description many educators use to describe the way their craft has gone in recent years. But getting administrators to admit that is like pulling wisdom teeth.

If they’re honest, they’ll tell you practically the entire focus of 180 days of classroom instruction each year is to pass state tests and keep school scores as high as possible in order to stay out of trouble with the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in Olympia.

Unfortunately, the Cheney Free Press editorial board thinks that has led to many good learning opportunities being left on the sidelines. What was decided in Medical Lake is one of those, it appears.

The effort to infuse this aspect of science was not one with a religious mission, its proponents say. It was just wishing to offer some critical analysis into the teaching of science.

Teaching criticisms of Darwinism has legitimate critics, but advocates argue that like all science – take note you climate change zealots – is an ever-changing landscape as nothing in science is proven.

The district, however, found it did not apparently fall under any specific state curriculum guidelines, despite the fact that approximately 15 percent of the annual End-of-Course, or EOC exam, involves the theory of evolution.

Before the final decision was made, one of the proponents asked those in attendance “just what are you afraid of?”

It’s a touchy subject, but we question a lot of other things in history, the written word and more. Even though it’s dry and crusty stuff sometimes, critiques of science should fit in there, too.

The debate in science should never entirely be over.

ML’s new director of teaching and learning, Kim Hedrick, spoke with district teachers about the idea and after doing so reported back that the district should not pursue this further.

This portion of the curriculum, had it been adopted, would have been very minimal in elementary grades. In middle school it would have been more a part of physical and earth sciences, plus biology. As juniors in high school comes a more serious study of the theory of evolution and a little on the origin of life.

So as we feed a nearly constant and endless stream of more and more money into education at all levels, we must ask, after decisions like this: Are schools teaching us to think, or what to think?


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