America’s children: don’t think, just do?
|February 15, 2006||Posted by Douglas Moran under Intelligent Design|
Ohio has decided it’s children should not think critically about science. See here. This twisted logic has profound implications for America’s ability to compete with societies whose scientists are encouraged to think outside the box.
Critical thinking starts with questions and continues with questioning authority. New discoveries derive from critical thinkers who refuse to accept dogma as reality and insist on finding their own answers. Sometimes their answers line up with the status-quo, but sometimes they don’t and new discoveries are made that eventually become the new status-quo. The transition from old to new can be extremely painful, depending only on how dogmatic the keepers of the old are. Either way, we all learn something in the process. But what happens if the status-quo is wrong and is forced on an unbelieving population by legal edict to the point that those critical thinking skills that fuel innovation are subjugated to blind faith?
I was curious about how this question might be addressed by the most important among us: our children. So I set out to discover if there is any difference between our local public and private school’s technique for encouraging open, free, critical thought about the controversial issue of Evolution and Intelligent Design…
My daughter is a 7th grader at a local Christian grade school. A few evenings ago I took her out for her favorite dinner of Alaskan king crab & key lime pie. Just for grins I asked her to “tell me what you know about evolution”. Mind you, she is not a huge fan of science, so I expected limited response. Boy was I wrong.
“Evolution is where life started really simple and changed in little steps over a long time and that’s how we all got here.”
Oh, well. That’s sure a lot more than I knew as a 7th grader…
I had to ask… do you believe it?
“Well, I’m not sure. God could do it any way he wants you know. Plus some of it doesn’t make sense.”
Oh really, I thought. Go on, what doesn’t make sense?
“Well, you know, like the bacteriel flagulum. Evolution couldn’t really do that, you know? It’s kind of like a mouse trap.”
I’m thinking: boy does this sound familiar. Continuing with the interrogation… a mousetrap, why?
“Well, because if you take away any of a mousetrap’s parts it won’t work anymore.”
Now I’m on the edge of my seat in anticipation of the coup de grace, but she was busy trying to crack that Alaskan king crab leg in pursuit of the prize within. So I waited a few long and painful moments. Finally I can’t stand it and blurt out my question: What does that have to do with evolution?
“Geez dad. OK. look, mmrrmmrrrm (munching butter-laden crab), if you take away a part and it doesn’t work, then how could small changes to something make it? Like, it wouldn’t work at all. So why would it even be there? Like evolution dad. See what I mean?”
OK, now that’s an honest answer. So I press on – what about that “flagulum”?
At this point her cellphone rings and she briefly relays a message to a friend of a friend. Something about February 14th. (Yes, all 7th graders in California have evolved their own cellphones.) When she terminates the call, she continues as if uninterrupted…
“OK. Where was I? Oh yeh, it’s like the mousetrap except it’s a motor on a bacteria and some scientists think it couldn’t be made by evolution.”
How on earth did her teachers sneak this one by me? I’ve been looking for someone to talk about this stuff with, and here she is, my 7th grade daughter – and she seems to understand it better than most adults I know. But wait, what does she really think? So I asked, what do you believe happened?
(gulp) “Well, I’m not sure yet. Ms. Jones (name changed to protect the innocent) said we needed to understand evolution and, like, why it works and how it works but also that it might not always work. She told us to make up our own minds. To study and stuff and use our brains. Really dad, I haven’t made up my mind yet and this is soooo boring. Can I just eat my crab and mac & cheese?” (Yes, in California we have mac & cheese with crab, big macs,… just about everything).
When we arrived home and my daughter quickly engaged in a game with the neighborhood kids, I pulled one aside and ask him the same question. He’s the older kid in the culdesac, the 9th grader from the local public school. Smart kid. Top of his class according to the bumper sticker on his dad’s car. (Actually, I know for a fact he is an honors student.) He memorized most of “Harry Potter”, the book, by the time he was 9. “What do you know about evolution?”, I asked.
“Huh? What? It means we used to be monkeys, but who cares?”
But do you believe it?
“Sure, why not?” This kid was quick.
Have you ever heard of Intelligent Design?
And what do you think of that?
“Well, at my school somebody asked about it and the teacher just said not to even think about it.” And off he ran…
Critical thinking is truly a mission-critical skill for aspiring scientists, businessmen, healthcare professionals, and elite bloggers. How do we teach our children this important skill? What message does our public school system give them when it dictates to children that they not even consider this or that issue, such as ID? I fear for the future of a country whose children are being taught not to think, only to believe blindly and never question authority. History has not been kind to such societies.