Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

May 9, 2005

Question Authority?

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:42 pm

Clayton Cramer has a great example of poetic justice:

Remember Those “Question Authority” Bumper Stickers?

I guess the left really didn’t mean it:

Nearly 30 years of teaching evolution in Kansas has taught Brad Williamson to expect resistance, but even this veteran of the trenches now has his work cut out for him when students raise their hands.

That’s because critics of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection are equipping families with books, DVDs, and a list of “10 questions to ask your biology teacher.”

The intent is to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of students as to the veracity of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The result is a climate that makes biology class tougher to teach. Some teachers say class time is now wasted on questions that are not science-based. Others say the increasingly charged atmosphere has simply forced them to work harder to find ways to skirt controversy.

Hmmmm. Why did the left think this was a good idea in the 1960s, but isn’t happy with it now?

There are polite and appropriate ways to challenge orthodoxy in a classroom–my son told me about a biology class he had last year where the student was definitely not doing so–but the tone of this New York Times article suggests that it is precisely because the “strategic questioning” is being done so well that it has put the priests biology teachers in a difficult position.

5 Responses to “Question Authority?”

  1. romy Says:

    it’s an interesting article, but i’m not sure (1) why people insist that belief lines in this country must fall according to political classification, or (2) what a stupid bumper sticker from the 1960s has to do with asking questions about evolution in the following century. also, i feel for the biology teacher in this instance – call me skeptical, but i’m not convinced a grade-school child will be able to do more than repeat the complicated questions listed in the article. following them up with a reasoned “scientific” argument will almost certainly be beyond the scope of the child’s abilities (IMHO). why don’t the opponents of evolution just tell their children to ask “HOW DO WE KNOW THIS?”

    anyway, thanks – interesting reading this tuesday morning …

  2. jpe Says:

    It strikes me as silly. If the kid actually has thought of the question, great. But sending kids equipped with the pedagogical equivalent of spam is ridiculous. I guarantee that biology teachers are going to start the year by passing out pro forma response sheet addressing the pro forma questions, which will spark new question spam questions, etc.

  3. anonymous Says:

    Still, one lawyer in Kansas said that doubting evolution is a proven fact is like doubting thaqt the earth revolves around the sun. That was an unbelievably stupid statement, and anyone who questions the arrogance of eplople who make statements like that is doing humanity and science a favor.

  4. Different River Says:

    Romy: (1) Belief lines in this country do not necessarily fall according to political classification, but it seems to be that people who get bent out of shape about the evolution-in-the-schools issue are on both the poltical and religious extremes (i.e., left-wing secular fundamentalists vs. right-wing religious fundamentalists). The people in either middle don’t seem to get involved in this so much. I should say “don’t seem to me….” — I could be wrong of course.

    (2) The relevance of this to the bumper sticker: Once upon a time “Question Authority” was a left-wing slogan. That was when the left was not in many positions of authority. Now, when the left controls many positions of authority (e.g., public school teachers, including biology teachers), they don’t seem to want kids to “Question Authority” any more. In other words, the slogan was a slogan of convenience. It could have read “Question Authority until we have it” — but that wouldn’t have sounded so principled.

  5. Different River Says:

    JPE: Don’t you think the kid has to understand the question to ask it in a coherent fashion? I think so. And I think the other kids in the class will benefit from hearing the question and the answer.

    Romy: Asking a teacher “How do we know this?” is a sure way to get the teacher angry, unless it’s an extraordinary teacher. Trust me on this one! Been there and done that, many many times! ;-)

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress