Re: flexibility in schools (was: Ethics in a void)

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Thu Jan 25 2001 - 14:44:52 MST

denis bider wrote:
> Samantha Atkins wrote:
> > Such flexibility would lead to teaching creation science
> > as being just as valid as evolution in our schools.
> Hmm.
> I think this is a very deep, tough, and controversial issue. If we had a
> catholic priest here to discuss this with ["thank god we don't" :) ], this
> would be a tough discussion.

Not really. I've argued with some of the best, er, worse, er...
It is not deep at all. Do and teach science in science classes. Leave
cosmogeny myths to other types of classes. If you are going to be a
relativist about this you can at least do a bit of segregating of the
tree of relative "knowledge".

> Overall, I think the preprogrammed nature of the school system as we have it
> (the concept is the same over there as it is here) is a problem in itself.
> The basic premise of education is that adults determine what kids should
> learn, and then these facts are rammed down children's throats. And kids who

Huh? If that is what education is then it would be a pretty
wrong-headed enterprise. Education is about learning to think and
learning information gathered by those who went before you, at least
enough to continue learning on your own as needed and desired. It is
not about "cramming information" down anyone's throat.

> can't cope with this awful approach are deemed "problematic". Be it creation
> science or evolution - ideally, kids would learn what they want to learn, at
> the time they want to learn it. [Although it probably does get more
> complicated than that.]

Kids don't know what they want to learn nor which basic skills will
enable them to learn it straight out of the womb. While I agree that it
is important to teach the joy of learning and the practicalities of what
are fundamental tools, I don't think the average tyke is in a position
to organize ver own education. Now after they learn some basic skills
and get exposed to more of the broad world, say by high school or even
junior high for many, earlier for some, more self-directed learning
would be appropriate. At the least learning at one's own pace would be
an improvement for many.

> I think your assertion - "such flexibility would lead..." - is largely
> irrelevant, because what is taught in schools is probably not what is
> "right", it is what the majority wants kids to be taught. As in most human
> conflicts, the decisive arguments here are arguments of force, not arguments
> of reason.

I utterly and totally disagree. Teaching creation science and foregoing
the teaching of evolution is not undecidable on the basis of relative
merit. It is not just a matter of who exercises or can exercise the
most force. If the purpose of education is to teach what has been
learned before then leaving evolution out of biology or considering it
optional makes science education an utter sham.

If all that makes something right is MIGHT then it is a damn sorry world
we live in. Do you really want to make this claim?

> You and I are fortunate enough that what is taught in schools is largely
> (but definitely not entirely) compatible with the way we think. Catholic
> priests are, well, less fortunate.

Catholic priests can frankly go to the hell they invented to intimidate
the gullible. :-) Your position looks like total cultural relativism.
I am not surprised. What does teaching what we have learned through
science about the world have to do with pretending that various
pre-scientific myths are equally valid? Are all myths and scientific
facts and theories equally valid in your opinion? Clearly they cannnot
all simultaneously be true in regard to the same aspects of what they
purport to explain. Why not simply teach the best of science in science
classes and teach these other things in classes examining comparative
creation myths? In that class don't just teach the fundamentalist
Christian version but cover the entire spectrum of such.

In the US I believe we have a fundamental clash brewing between
fundamentalism (more deeply, anti-intellectualism/anti-reason) and
science/reason. It is not brewing only here but its consequences will
be the most far reaching in the US pressure cooker. If we can't manage
to act most often on what can be verified by science/reason in this
highly educated and prosperous country then how will we ever reach the
relatively undeveloped countries struggling between ancient culture and
modern knowledge and abilities? If there is no basis but the size of
one's club for deciding questions then what hope of enough peace and
plenty to transcend our current massive limitations is there? If reason
cannot/does not prevail here then where will it? If the US becomes the
world's biggest theocracy then what would that do to the world and all
of our fondest dreams?

- samantha

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