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In Theory: Electing to bypass natural selection

March 13, 2014

A Missouri lawmaker, Rep. Rick Brattin (R-Harrisonville), contends that public school children in his state who question Darwinian theory are ridiculed. He introduced a bill into the state's General Assembly that would allow parents to opt their children out of evolution teaching.

"What my bill would do is it would allow parents to opt out of natural selection teaching," Brattin told a Missouri TV channel, KCTV. "It would not prohibit the child from going through biology from learning about cell structure, DNA and the building blocks of life."

Q: Tell us your thoughts about Brattin's proposal.

At least Brattin's bill wouldn't cut out all of science education. But giving parents the chance to have their kids not be taught the theory of evolution is in general a bad idea. It is a theory, after all; it's a pretty good theory, as far as I'm concerned, but it is a theory. Couldn't the parents emphasize to their kids that a theory is not a fact? I mean, if the kids are ridiculed now, won't they be even more laughed at if they get to go to the non-Darwinian room or some such during that aspect of science class?

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And something else: How come parents get to decide what gets taught? In the interest of full disclosure, I am a former teacher, and I can't remember any parent of any student of mine being angry with me because of some concept I raised in class. But in America, don't we believe in "new and improved"? Shouldn't your child's education be better than what you had, or at least as good?

I am aware that Socrates in ancient Greece was thought of as a threat, and he did drink the hemlock that killed him. So there has always been this tension between town and gown, between the pointed heads and the pencil heads. But it's dangerous when those on the outside think they know better than those on the inside.

Don't get me wrong: there should always be a conversation between the parents and the teachers, and having know-it-alls on either side is not good. But I'm inclined to say, "Let the teacher teach." After all, he or she was drawn into that profession, and not many of them go into teaching for the money.

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