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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dear Teacher Who Won't Teach Evolution in Science

I subbed a science class yesterday that didn't have lesson plans, I designed a lesson using Blue Planet episode on "The Deep" ocean to teach students about how environmental conditions of the deep ocean and animal adaptations of the organisms living there interact. Today when I debriefed the teacher on what I did they saw the "Adaptations" notes on the white board and said, "Oh no, you didn't talk about evolution in my class did you? I don't want no law suit, I don't even touch on evolution or adaptation."

WHAT THE FUDGE! Are you kidding me? Science teachers not teaching Evolution or natural selection or adaptations? That's like teaching algebra but not teaching kids how to count to 10, its fundamental to biological understanding. Not only that our School District Curriculum and the Washington State Standards require it.

So I wrote this email, but never sent it, because even though I am a staunch Atheist and a firm believer that this type of bullshit needs to stop immediately, I am in the process of applying for jobs and don't want a mess on my hands. So here is the un-sent email.

Dear Teacher Who Won't Teach Evolution in Science,

You said something this morning that kind of perplexed me about not teaching evolution or adaptation. So I checked to see what our school district and state say about teaching evolution, natural selection, and adaptation.

Here's what I found. Not only is it ok, it is part of our district curriculum and the state science standards. So although the fear of a lawsuit from a parent is there, you have your school districts go ahead as well as the state requirement to cover the material. Legally you would be safe if you taught it, and you should.

Teaching evolution in school is really important regardless of people's religious affiliations, school is a secular institution and science and inquiry and biology and evolution are secular institutions continually moving toward teaching proven, evidence based, curriculum and theories.

Also, the evolutionary theory of adaptation by natural selection can and does explain how life has come into being the way it is on this planet and to deprive students of this understanding of the fundamental roots of life's functions and manifestations is irresponsible and unfair to them as well as a major hinderance to their future contributions to the human condition on this planet.

Please consider these standards when planning your curriculum next year.

Tacoma 6th Grade Science Curriculum
Fall 6th grade
Diversity of Life

Students observe and maintain protists, plants and animals in the classroom and study their characteristic features. The study progresses from macroscopic to microscopic observation to discover the fundamental unit of life, the cell. Students then investigate organism subsystems and behaviors, ****and consider their diversity of adaptive structures and strategies.****

Fall 7th Grade
Populations and Ecosystem

Students raise populations of organisms to discover population dynamics in a range of conditions. Reproduction, heredity and **** natural selection are explored as ways to understand both the similarity and the variation within and between organisms.****

State Standards

6-8 LS3A
++++The scientific theory of evolution underlies the study of biology and explains both the diversity of life on Earth and similarities of all organisms at the chemical, cellular, and molecular level. Evolution is supported by multiple forms of scientific evidence. Explain and provide evidence of how biological evolution accounts for the diversity of species on Earth today.++++

6-8 LS3E
++++Adaptations are physical or behavioral changes that are inherited and enhance the ability of an organism to survive and reproduce in a particular environment. Give an example of a plant or animal adaptation that would confer a survival and reproductive advantage during a given environmental change.++++

6-8 LS3F
Extinction occurs when the environment changes and the ++++adaptive characteristics of a species, including its behaviors, are insufficient to allow its survival.++++ Given an ecosystem, predict which organisms are most likely to disappear from that environment when the environment changes in specific ways.

6-8 LS3G
++++Evidence for evolution includes similarities among anatomical and cell structures, and patterns of development make it possible to infer degree of relatedness among organisms. Infer the degree of relatedness of two species, given diagrams of anatomical features of the two species (e.g., chicken wing, whale flipper, human hand, bee leg).++++

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