Saturday, December 23, 2006

Why It's Important to Teach Facts NOT Feelings

When my kids started kindergarten the latest fad in education was the writing to read program. The students were encouraged to write stories, and were told that spelling wasn't important, to just spell the word however they felt it should be spelt. My youngest who loves telling stories loved it. Then he hit first grade, all of a sudden he had to spell words a certain way, not the way he felt they should be spelled. He was miserable and confused. It took years of homeschooling to convince him that spelling words the way everyone else does is important.

Some parents feel that the theory of evolution challenges their religious beliefs. These parents want to discard teaching evolution because it contradicts the bible stories they were taught as children, what's the harm?
From The Bible Belt's Assault on Education By: Robert W. Tracinski

Some of these religious activists claim that they reject the teaching of evolution because it is "unproven," since it lacks "sufficient evidence." Yet their arguments systematically reject the need for proof and evidence. Scientists can point to a billion-year-long fossil record of continuous changes across all species as they develop from more-primitive to present-day forms. They can point to the natural variations among members of a species, variations that change from one climate to another as species adapt to their environments. But the Creationist categorically dismisses the evidence--because it contradicts Biblical dogma. The central issue is not whether there is enough scientific evidence to validate a particular conclusion--but whether science as such, rather than faith, is the basis for arriving at conclusions. There can be no scientific debate between these two positions. There can be no rational argument between a view that rests on observation and reason, and one that rests on blind faith--i.e., on its adherents' desire to believe something, irrespective of logic. If the Creationist approach were taken seriously, what would remain of education? If evidence and reasoning are to be "balanced" by faith or feelings--what, then, would not belong in the curriculum? Even the theory that the earth is flat has proponents who feel it is true. More to the point, what is to stop teachers from presenting any other non-rational view of the origin of man? Why not give equal time to, say, the Nazi claim that the white race descended from the superior Aryans? The most ominous implication of the Creationist position is its belief that, in judging the truth of an idea, one can simply ignore rational evidence--if it clashes with one's desire to believe otherwise.

I can only wonder how kids who have been denied a "real" science education feel when they go off to university and find themselves being confronted with "facts" they have never heard of. Maybe they should be introduced to The Language of God by Francis S. Collins.

Thus Collins a devoutly Christian geneticist and leader of the Human Genome Project, can comfortably accept that "a common ancestor for humans and mice is virtually inescapable" . ~Scientists on Religion by George Johnson in Scientific American

Or the book Why Darwin Matters by Michael Shermer (publisher of Skeptic)

In Why Darwin Matters, historian of science and bestselling author Michael Shermer diffuses our fears by examining what evolution really is, how we know it happened, and how to test it. Shermer then discusses what science is through a brief history of the evolution-creation controversy from the Scopes “Monkey” trial of 1925, through the U.S. Supreme Court case of 1987, to the ongoing trials today, demonstrating clearly how and why creationism and Intelligent Design theory are not science. Dr. Shermer also builds a powerful case for evolution as the scientific theory that most closely parallels the Christian model of human nature and the conservative model of free market economics.

In "The Bait and Switch of "Intelligent Design", Keith Lockitch explains why "intelligent design" isn't real science.

The supposedly nonreligious theory of "intelligent design" is nothing
more than a crusade to peddle religion by giving it the veneer of
--to pretend, as one commentator put it, that "faith in God is
something that holds up under the microscope."The insistence of "intelligent
design" advocates that they are "agnostic regarding the source of design" is a
bait-and-switch. They dangle out the groundless possibility of a "designer" who
is susceptible of scientific study--in order to hide their real agenda of
promoting faith in the supernatural. Their scientifically accessible "designer"
is nothing more than a gateway god--metaphysical marijuana intended to draw
students away from natural, scientific explanations and get them hooked on the
supernatural. No matter how fervently its salesmen wish "intelligent design" to
be viewed as cutting-edge science, there is no disguising its true character. It is nothing more than a religiously motivated attack on science, and
should be rejected as such

I feel the Flying Spaghetti Monster should be the intelligent designer, because it's cute and I like eating spaghetti. Which goes to show why feelings shouldn't enter the classroom doors. Since everyone's feelings are valid if we teach strictly what parents feel is "right" then we open the door to any half-backed idea circulating at a particular time. IF on the other hand we stick to teaching "facts" our children will get the education they deserve.

Originally posted October 2006


mark said...

every thing should be taught paratically

Janine Cate said...

No one benefits by teaching children that an opposing point of view doesn't exist. Regardless of your beliefs, it is important to understand what others believe and why.

It is very simple to teach a perspective, the observable data that supports that conclusion and the data that contradicts it. The problem is when either side pretends that there is no contradictions or gaps.

I've never really understood the uproar about evolution. Even if you believe the evolution is categorically false, how would you "know" that it was false without knowing the particulars of the theory.

I was impressed by a homework assignment from a nearby Christian school. The students were asked to pick a dinosaur and describe which features COULD be explained by the theory of evolution and which features could NOT be explained by the theory of evolution.

I thought that was an intellectually honest way to approach the topic.

BigNut said...

I very much enjoyed this post, Alasandra, all the way down to the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Keep up the great posts!