Evolution in Pre-School?

Continuing the discussion from Bias Against Guillermo Gonzalez (Privileged Planet)?:

Evolution is being taught in pre-school now:

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I was speaking of teaching evolution as science, not as childhood catechism.

The student can’t understand anything about evolutionary mechanisms until they understand what a cell is, what a nucleus is, what mitosis and meiosis are, what DNA and proteins are, etc. So their understanding of evolution isn’t going to be at all sophisticated until they have some basic cell biology and genetics under their belt, and also, I might add, some ecology. That’s why it’s better to use ninth-grade biology for cell biology, genetics, and ecology, so that a more sophisticated understanding of evolutionary mechanism can be taught in at a higher grade level. Take out the two or three weeks of evolution and fill those classes with more cell biology, genetics, and ecology (or even more botany and zoology), and the ninth-grade biology program would be improved – and also, the fight over evolution in the schools would virtually end, since it’s virtually all focused on two or three weeks of classes in ninth-grade biology. Moving the evolution unit out of the grade in which science is compulsory up to a grade where science is no longer compulsory would cause 90% of the opposition to evolution in the schools to dissolve into thin air.

Grandmother Fish is not catechism. It is science at a pre-school level. Similar to teaching adding and subtracting. I have seen cool experiments done by pre-schoolers like planting seeds, studying feathered dinosaurs and birds. Even introducing human evolution like Neanderthals and Lucy -the Australopithecus.
There is no controversy in science in secular America.

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Children are introduced to all of this at a much early age than 9th grade. By 3rd grade science, DNA is introduced and the cell. By 9th grade most have been introduced to all of the subjects that you mentioned. Most High schools require 3 years of science to graduate High School. That is a minimum of biology, chemistry and physics, earth/space science. There are different levels so that all students are covered but everyone gets at least the basics in science in High School.

Don’t be silly. Of course younger students can be taught and understand basic concepts like natural selection without having upper level biology courses. ID-Creationists are opposed to teaching evolutionary science fundamentals to younger students simply because it makes it that much harder for ID-Creationists to fool the students with their pseudo-science later.

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Having ID-Creationists stop their efforts to undermine science education with their bogus “teach the controversy” BS would remove 100% of the opposition to teaching sound evolutionary science.

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That is false. There would just be new organizations that pop up. A lot of people are uncomfortable with evolution. We need to give them better options on how to think about it.

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Agreed.

What other organizations oppose teaching evolution in schools besides ID-Creationist ones? I’ve certainly never heard of any.

There would just be new ones that pop up.

Also, there is no need for AIG etc to challenge school curriculums. It would still happen at the school board level everywhere.

But they would still be ID-Creationist motivated, yes? That’s why I suggested all such organizations stop trying to undermine science education, which would include any new ones.

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No. You forget that even many atheists, for example, have reasons for doubting evolutionary Biology. And what about the disastrous Lysenko Affair in the Soviet Union?

I had a Marxist/Maoist acquaintance in grad school who denied much of evolutionary biology for reasons not far removed from those which motivated Lysenkoism.

Of course, the Nazis in pre-war Germany also got quite adamant in their opposition to evolutionary biology and all of Darwins books were on the banned booked list published in Die Bucherei. I’ve read of modern day Nazis who echo that opposition.

Here’s some information about evolution doubters who aren’t motivated by creationism or IDism:

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I’m talking about the groups which have staged organized campaigns or protests against the teaching of evolution in U.S. public elementary and high schools. I’ve never seen any atheist or communist organizations do that, have you?

Your question which led to my reply was this:

What other organizations oppose teaching evolution in schools besides ID-Creationist ones?

The Maoist I mentioned was both an atheist and a Communist. He and his “students for anarchy” organization participated in a protest in cooperation with various other groups after the local newspaper in that university town had a Sunday paper feature on a popular biology teacher who taught evolution concepts in engaging ways at the local high school. I have no idea how many students were in his organization but he once told me that it included (among others) some anti-evolution Jainists and what we would today call neo-Nazis. (As with many Hindus, those Jainists were atheists.) Yeah, he was a very strange guy and a strange mix of people. I can’t imagine what their meetings were like. (Contempt for the Theory of Evolution and American democracy may have been the only ideas which united them. I don’t know.)

I have no idea how many anti-evolution groups exist which are neither IDist nor creationist.

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They can’t possibly understand enough chemistry in 3rd grade to really understand DNA. They can learn that there is a thing called DNA that is kind of twisty-turny, that is involved in reproduction, but they would have no idea about purines, pyrimidines, or even chemical bonding. In third grade you are dealing with children (these days) who don’t know the most basic arithmetic, who can’t even spell “alter” vs. “altar” let alone “purine”, who don’t know what “hydrogen atom” “covalent bond” etc. mean. I skipped a grade and went to a special gifted class for all the kids in my city (many of them went on to become classical pianists, Ivy League profs, etc.), and I certainly didn’t know enough chemistry in third grade to understand the DNA-protein system. And I read voluminously outside of class on science, from before I was in kindergarten! The average kid in my class, even the average “A” student, knew less than I did about science. So I don’t know where these schools are you are talking about. In suburban New England, maybe, in a neighborhood where all the parents are doctors, lawyers, and professors? I can guarantee you that that 90% the third-graders in more typical American places, like Dover, couldn’t tell a DNA molecule from a twisted woman’s hair elastic.

It would be better if the schools succeeded first in their primary duty – to teach people to speak, listen, read and write properly, to count and calculate properly. In elementary school science should be more like natural history – learning the types of animals and plants and their habitats, learning the six simple machines and what they do, learning the seasons and how to find the two Dippers in the sky, etc. Junior high is time enough to teach science in a systematic way, after the students have a basic literacy and numeracy – which they are not getting now, in 90% of the schools in the country. Teaching evolution in pre-school when you aren’t even teaching literacy in sixth grade is idiotic.

Wrong on two counts. First of all, my suggestion was not mean to represent the view of “ID-Creationists” – in fact, as far as I know, most ID and Creationist people wouldn’t agree with my suggestion at all. They seem to want to keep the evolution unit in ninth-grade biology so that they can fight over its contents with the Darwinists. I’m saying the cause of the fight can be and should be removed. So the suggestion is mine and mine alone. It’s not Discovery’s position, it’s not that of AIG or any creationist organization.

Second, yes you can teach ninth-grade kids the idea of natural selection, and some other evolutionary ideas as well. That’s not the point. The point is that there is also a lot of cell biology, genetics, ecology, botany, zoology, systematics, physiology etc. that you can teach them – all of which will help them to a deeper understanding of evolution. So if you think outside your 60-year-old pedagogical box (the current high-school science system is at least that old, in general outline), and imagine a school system in which the two or three weeks spent on evolution in ninth-grade is replaced by two or three weeks of that other basic stuff I’m talking about, and the evolution unit is moved up to a tenth or eleventh or twelfth grade biology class, all you are doing is swapping material around – introducing some of the other stuff earlier, and the evolutionary stuff later. It’s still all going to get covered before the student leaves high school, if the student takes biology beyond ninth grade.

And even a fundamentalist will have to take more biology in high school, if the fundamentalist is thinking of going on to major in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, biology, biochemistry, etc. The fundamentalist will want to prepare himself or herself for college-level biology courses. So guess what – the fundamentalist aiming for any of those careers will have to take evolution in high school anyway – but under my proposal would take it in an upper year rather than in ninth grade. So what’s the difference? None – except that under my proposal, taking biology courses involving evolution would be voluntary – part of the student’s freely chosen career training – not compulsory as part of the high school graduation requirements (i.e., having to have ninth-grade science to get a diploma).

Moving the evolution unit of out ninth grade (and replacing it not with religion, but with other biological topics) would put an end to hundreds of thousands of hours annually wasted by teachers, professors, school board trustees, lawyers, editorial writers, advocacy groups, etc. fighting over a curriculum unit that wouldn’t be there any more! There would be no Kansases, no Texases, no Cobb County sticker quarrels, etc. Once the parents know that their kids won’t have to study evolution unless they choose to, they will drop almost all opposition to evolution in the upper grades of high school.

But again, this solution is too simple, and people who build and fight over educational systems will never adopt anything that is simple and solves problems, when they can hang onto things that are difficult and keep causing problems.

By the way: I’m not a creationist, not a fundamentalist, not a Genesis literalist. I don’t think the Bible is a science textbook or should be used to stop scientists from doing their research. I think the earth is billions of years old and that human beings have been around for 100,000 years or more in their modern anatomical form anyway. I have no religious objections to the idea of common descent. Everything I write here about my own understanding of “intelligent design” should be understood in light of these statements. If you choose not to believe them, I won’t waste time trying to convince you they are my honest beliefs. But this should be enough to make you understand (if you are interested in understanding) that I have no interest in bringing the Bible into science classes. So when I make a suggestion for altering the high-school science curriculum, it’s not for the reasons of someone like Ken Ham. It’s because I think the current set-up wastes vast amounts of human energy, as people attack and defend it, when a simple expedient could dissolve the problem.

But you are very verbose.

What exactly is your point @eddie? Are you sure this isn’t spiraling out of control here? Should we save you by closing the thread?

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Sorry but understanding the scientific concepts in evolution are way too important in the modern world to make them voluntary. We desperately need a scientifically literate population to compete in global economies and a scientifically literate electorate to be sure our chosen leaders understand critical scientific issues like loss of biodiversity due to anthropogenic climate change. Making courses critical to those ends voluntary would be foolishness to the nth degree.

The only reason it’s a problem is because ID-Creationists make it a problem. You don’t fix the disruptions by getting rid of the valuable science, That would be like solving a problem with an ingrown toenail by having your foot amputated. You get rid of the source of the disruption.

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Which is not what I suggested. Did you read what I suggested? Joshua tells me I am too “verbose”, but I gave detail precisely so you wouldn’t misinterpreted what I suggested. You don’t seem to have paid any attention to the detail. So I guess Joshua was partly right; too many words are wasted – when people only read about 10% of the words, and skim or don’t bother the read the rest.

The two or three weeks of evolution taught in ninth grade could be deleted (though I’m not proposing deleting them, but merely moving them) without any harm whatsoever to any of the ends you are concerned about. In fact, the most hard-nosed six-day creationist can understand the concept of “loss of biodiversity.” And as for competing in global economies, I know all kinds of computer geeks and accounting geeks etc. who are doing very well at that – and are creationists. Far more damage is done to the world by the fact that we don’t teach enough philosophy than that we don’t teach enough about evolution.

I already indicated elsewhere that I don’t favor the “teach the controversy” language, because it’s too vague about what the controversy is.

I prefer the language of critical thinking. I think that all science [and all other subjects] should be taught in such a way as to encourage the development of critical faculties, and discourage accepting something merely because an authority figure says so. So if some textbook trots out the old Haeckel diagrams, it’s important that students learn that Haeckel fudged his drawings to make them more favorable to his ideas about ontogeny and phylogeny, and that those diagrams were trusted for decades by many science teachers and science students before Haeckel’s cheating came to light. It’s a good lesson that we should not rely on pretty pictures, especially when they seem too systematically perfect. I think it would be an excellent thing for a biology teacher to briefly explain the Haeckel episode, not as a challenge to evolution, but as an example of how devotion to promoting an idea, even a good idea, can tempt scientists to less than professionally ethical behavior. That’s part of science education, too, not just learning “stuff” to pass exams, but learning the professionally proper way of doing science, what methods are acceptable and what methods are not.