Friday, March 27, 2015
If you hate linked articles don't click on the fucking link
I found this article about teaching evolution at the University of Kentucky unbelievably interesting and unbelievably frightening. I think the question is whether the students the author describes are just a particularly vocal minority or whether there is actually a silent plurality or even majority in his classroom who share the views of their door-slamming friends? I don't think there's any way to know, but it would be interesting to figure it out.
I once had a student hurl a book (a widely regarded classic of European literature) at me while shouting "Filth, this is filth." But that was an exceptional, I'd say singular, event. I've been teaching that book for two decades plus and that's the only negative feedback I've ever received on it. But this guy is experiencing these types of tantrums on a regular basis it would seem. If he were teaching at Downstate Bible College I'd understand, but this is a core curriculum course at an R1. That's just craaaaaaaazy.
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I'd give anything for Angry Archie every day, but since there's no Cal-type to correct these things...from the CM Glossary: FlavaReplyDelete
1. Just a smidgen of the real thing; usually used to refer to a snippet of a linked article.
I'm not being an asshole. Just now that I see Fab has KILLED THE PAGE FINALLY, I want us to go out on top! (And following arcane rules.)
Yeah, you're right of course. I even knew it while I was writing it. But for various reasons today is a day in which I have barely any fucks to give, and I wasn't going to waste one of them on that one. But normally I would.ReplyDelete
I'm sorry, Archie. I was just making a joke. I really didn't mean anything.Delete
Oh, I understood. Just messing with you.Delete
Very glad to see "the flava". It's been awhile.Delete
I'm patiently waiting for the return of "Please to enjoy." I miss that.
At least there is some original commentary. I seem to remember that, back in the primordial ooze (i.e. the debate over linked articles that precipitated the initial appearance of the duck), we agreed that the original commentary was as or more important than the flava.Delete
Excellent article. I teach evolution in my courses and recently I had students write down what they know/think about evolution in just a few sentences. I was shocked that only one person outright told me it was wrong. Did the others just tell me what they thought I wanted to hear? Are more of them creationists and just being quiet? Everyone else knew what evolution was on some level and they could even answer basic questions on evolution.ReplyDelete
In another class I had an older, non-traditional student approach me and flat out tell me would not answer any questions about evolution. I figured I would never reach this student. Somehow, it worked out. I think he understood that religion and evolution could be separate. I think it helped when I asked him, "How do you test for God?" "How do you measure God's presence?" I have yet to have a student out right burst into a tirade in class and storm out. Thank goodness!
Thankfully, this problem doesn't come up in chemistry. I do get into discussions/arguments with family and such about evolution, the Big Bang, etc. I tell them that students don't have to believe what science claims, they just need to know what science claims and be able to apply it. Thankfully, science doesn't care if you believe in it or not.Delete
I teach our big (for us, that is, it's usually about 40 students) gen ed "Introduction To Physical Sciences", and I include a unit on Global Warming in the Earth Sciences part of the course. The push-back is modest, but I think that mostly reflects the level of apathy the course evokes in the third of the class that is simply counting on "D is for Done".Delete
I have students get up and walk out. Or they sit stone-faced, arms crossed across the chest, not writing a single thing down. This is Canada, so they're polite about it.ReplyDelete
This really does create a conundrum. Pedagogically, it makes a great deal of sense to teach evolution at the beginning of the semester, because, as the author points out, our understanding of evolution and how it works shapes much of how we approach the rest of biology (even I, an English proffie, know that). But strategically, it's going to turn off some students, or even push them into outright rebellion. I suspect that evolution gets left to the end of the semester in many courses for exactly that reason.ReplyDelete
But it's got to be taught, because it *is* the foundation of modern biology, and also because all those nice Christians who want to help people by going into various medical professions need to understand it, if only enough to realize that antibiotic resistance is a very real threat.
I wish I could help, but I'm one of those other Christians who thinks that God created the world, and that evolution is one of the mechanisms (s)he used to do it. I also think that (s)he gave humans intelligence, and curiosity, and other attributes conducive to conducting good science (and other intellectual pursuits), because (s)he expected us to use them for our own and others' good (and pleasure), not as a test of our faith in the literal truth of the Bible. But sadly Christianity is about as divided as many other communities these days, and progressive Christians have as much trouble talking with fundamentalist ones as Democrats do with Republicans.
One ray of hope: among young Christians, even quite conservative/fundamentalist ones, there's growing support for recognition of the basic humanity of GLBT people, and a growing willingness to recognize their relationships as something other than vehicles solely for the expression of a supposedly-disordered sexuality. To get to that point, one has to read the Bible historically rather than literally, recognizing that condemnations of specific same-sex sexual behaviors in the Old and New Testaments do not necessarily require condemnation of relationships that include similar behaviors, played out in a very different social/cultural/historical/interpersonal context, today. Once one has taken the step of reading the Bible historically and contextually, maybe one can also begin to recognize the mix of genres, including creation myth, and read those parts as they were meant to be read (i.e. not as science/natural history, but as explanation of where the created order came from, and why some aspects of it work as they do)? We can hope. After all, fundamentalist readings of the Bible are really only a century or so old, while the conversation about science, religion, and the possible connections and disconnections between them is a very old (and admittedly at times very contentious) one.
In the meantime, I'll admit that I'm glad that I don't teach biology.
This comment has been removed by the author.ReplyDelete
I find that the number of students who are outspoken evolution skeptics peaked in late 2005, during the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial. After this, they suddenly went away, and I haven't heard much from them since. Maybe it's also because I do give them outs. For example, at the top of Homework 1, I have this:ReplyDelete
"We’ll cover many of these events over the semester. If you don’t want to believe any of it, fine, you don’t have to: I don’t require belief. This is a science class: it isn’t about believing, it’s about knowing. You therefore do have to know what scientists think, and why they think what they think."
On exams, I am careful to include "scientists say..." This way, it doesn't seem like I'm forcing them to agree with me.
In 2000, I had several evolution skeptics in the class. One of them asked me, “Do you require belief?” I grinned and said, “No!” They loved that: one of the others told me, “You’re so open-minded!” When you think about it, though, what else could I have said? I can’t read people’s minds, so I can’t check for belief.
In 2004, I had two particularly vociferous evolution skeptics in class. They didn’t let me get away with any shortcuts: many good questions they asked included, “How can galaxies collide in an expanding Universe?” and “How can the surface of Mars have been carved by liquid water, if the atmosphere is too thin to allow liquid water to exist?” I should thank them, because their questions greatly improved the arguments in the textbook I was writing.
I do have students get up and walk out whenever I say the word “evolution.” But then, I have students get up and walk out all the time, for all kinds of reasons. It’s usually not about evolution whenever they return after ten minutes with a coffee and a Danish.
10 minutes? The lines at your institution are a lot shorter than those at mine. Anyone who left to get a coffee in the middle of one of my classes would simply be gone for the duration. But yes, barring the student yelling "you lie" on the way out, it's usually wise to assume that student departures from the classroom don't have much to do with the instructor and/or what (s)he is or isn't saying.Delete
And yes, "scientists say," and its equivalents, can be very useful. We had a half-distressing (because it distressed the people involved)/half-amusing incident in an adult Sunday School class recently where the instructor conveyed a good many facts about the beliefs of another religious group without prefacing everything with (let's say) "Hindus believe," and one participant in the class (for whom English is not a first language) began complaining to the pastor and various other church leaders that the teacher of the class was proselytizing for Hinduism. I think we got it all straightened out eventually, but it took some time and energy. So I'm very much in behavior of "members of x group argue." Besides, being able to summarize an argument faithfully without necessarily agreeing or disagreeing it with it (or at least prior to doing so) is a basic academic skill. In fact, I can summarize a number of arguments, both academic and theological, with which I disagree. I can also tell you why I disagree with them, but that's a separate skill.
I teach chemistry so evolution isn't on the agenda. Still, I might add a week of "evolution" to the syllabus just so that a few more students will drop my class. When we get to that point in the semester, I'll claim it was a typo.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the link, Archie. I clicked on it, and even on some links that were in the article itself!ReplyDelete
So, the fact that there are still monkeys disproves evolution? And the counterargument about there still being Catholics can't work, because Baptists came first? Then why are there still Baptists? Duh!
I actually read some of the transcripts from the Kitzmiller trial. The disembling by the (former) school board was amazing. They clearly knew nothing of science, yet they "knew" more than those who were trained scientists and who begged them not to go through with their scheme.
It's nearing 10 years since that trial, and the matter is still being haggled over in school boards all over the US, Texas being the most scary one.