Open letter to the Principal of a Kentucky school about Creationism

posted in: Writing | 0

Recently, I received this comment on my review of “Inner Fish”:

This book is nothing but evolutionary propaganda and malarkey at best and rubbish and refuse at its worst. It espouses a THEORY that has yet to be definitively proven and offers meager and weak attempts to refute arguments against it. Reading this book only served to strengthen my belief that the earth is not billions of years old and that we did not evolve from lower life forms but were fearfully and wonderfully made by design. Our wondrous designer and creator is God in heaven. There is no amount of scientific jabber and jargon that will ever change my mind. This book disseminates the deception of evolution and presents it as a tried and tested truth. It is unabashedly anti creation and attempts to convert every student to the agenda it promulgates. It is hogwash.

I approved it, because I try to avoid censoring the comments on this site, and it was germane to the topic. While I am skeptical that the comment author had read the book, as she claimed, I was more concerned that she was posting that from a Kentucky school email address. A quick google search revealed that it was indeed a public school, and that she teaches 6th grade.

As you may or may not be aware, Kentucky’s performance in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) has unfortunately on the lower end of the scale nationally, and as a nation we are outperformed by other countries pretty consistently. I located the e-mail address for the Principal of that school and wrote him this e-mail, cc’ing the original comment author. I have redacted their identifying information from the re-cap:

Subject: Teaching standards
From: XXXXX@amhill.net
Date: Fri, April 22, 2011 11:51 am
To: THEPRINCIPAL@XXXXX.k12.ky.us
Cc: THECOMMENTAUTHOR@XXXXX.kyschools.us
Mr. THEPRINCIPAL,

Recently, I received a comment on my blog claiming to be one of your
faculty, THECOMMENTAUTHOR. Here is the relevant URL:

http://blog.amhill.net/2010/01/13/book-review-your-inner-fish/

This comment was received on 04/22/2011 at 2:25 pm from IP address
170.185.XX.XX (which is your school) and the comment used the email:
THECOMMENTAUTHOR@XXXXX.kyschools.us

I do not know whether or not it actually *was* Ms. COMMENTAUTHOR or someone
claiming to be her, but in the interest of the education of your students,
I felt compelled to bring it to your attention. Since Kentucky has joined
the rest of our nation in making an effort to combat the low performance
in STEM subjects, and also since the teaching of Creationism in public
schools has been consistently dissented by the supreme court (Peloza v.
Capistrano, Edwards v. Aguillard, Kitzmiller v. Dover); regardless of what
Ms. COMMENTAUTHOR, or any educator, feels is "true" personally, she is required
by law to not misinform her students with Creationist propaganda.

The subject of Evolutionary Biology is typically not introduced until the
high school level anyways, so this may be all be moot, but I am concerned
about Ms. COMMENTAUTHOR religiosity with regard to her students, being that it
is a public school system.

The National Center for Science Education (http://ncse.com/creationism)
has some terrific content up regarding this topic and the actual science
around it. I will not waste your time arguing with Ms. COMMENTAUTHOR's position
here. There is also the Talk Origins website, which features a terrific
guide to explaining the misinformation behind common creationist claims: 
(http://talkorigins.org/indexcc/).

I apologize for bringing this up right before Easter vacation. I hope you
and Ms. COMMENTAUTHOR' families have a wonderful, albeit brief, holiday weekend.

I have cc'd Ms. COMMENTAUTHOR on this, so that she is aware of the matter in
case it was not her that posted the comment originally.

Warm regards,

Aaron

I certainly wouldn’t have gone through all of this trouble had she not been a public educator. I was fortunate enough to go through a grade school where, I am pretty sure, there were no creationist influences by any of my trusted teachers. Kentucky, which has been somewhat of a national laughingstock with its Creation Museum, and soon, a theme park based around a life-size replica of Noah’s Ark, has notoriously been behind the curve with the sciences, particularly on this topic. (“Evolution” was changed in school text books a few years back to be “change over time”, which isn’t completely accurate, as Evolution has a lot more to do with population composition and genetic inheritances than it does with how those things manifest morphologically, although morphology is certainly one of the more interesting and visually identifiable products of evolution. “Change over time” is really more of the Hollywood-style definition)

The comment author is certainly entitled to believe what she wishes to believe, and while I would be happy to have a friendly and spirited discussion with her over what seems to be a gross misunderstanding of the subject on her part, I would never tell her she does not have the freedom to make her own choice. HOWEVER, she does have a responsibility as a teacher to both (a) follow the legal prescriptions and (b) follow the curriculum as dictated by the Board of Education.

The Supreme Court has consistently ruled against Creationism (and more recently it’s progeny: Intelligent Design), and the mandates of the Board of Education, which are set forth by a committee of individuals, should at least be more attenuated than the wily desires of a renegade teacher with a passionate, yet misinformed, belief.

I sincerely hope that the Principal will speak with the comment author on this topic to ensure that she is aware of her obligations as a licensed teacher; I do not wish her to lose her job, particularly not in this economic climate. I imagine she probably has a family to help support and there’s no reason they should suffer because she had a sudden case of SIWOTI. And while I’m thinking idealistically, it would be really awesome if the comment author would give some serious thought to the substantial evidence against Creationism.

And most importantly, if she hasn’t already (like I said, I’m skeptical!), she really should read “Your Inner Fish” — it’s a well-written and very intriguing book. 🙂