Teach Yourself Evolution

Today, I thought I’d offer a little good news and some bad news. Here’s the bad news, which continues to emerge out of my birthplace, Louisiana, where the Christian religious right has managed to use the idea of “choice” to help them siphon off public money for their schools, thanks to the Republican Governor Jindal. It’s possible to have a good Christian school, of course, at least in theory, but these schools promote what amounts to a form of religiously sanctioned ignorance. Here’s a brief discussion of what these school plan to teach:

… Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, a founder of the Louisiana Coalition for Science, and a member of NCSE’s board of directors, told the Advocate, “What [students] are going to be getting financed with public money is phony science. They’re going to be getting religion instead of science.” Alluding to a textbook published by Accelerated Christian Education, the editorial noted, “Among the dubious assertions of creationist pseudo-science is that evolution is called into question by sightings of the Loch Ness monster, a ‘dinosaur’ living in the modern age — according to those who believe in the Loch Ness myth.”

Louisiana’s Loch Ness mythology” National Center for Science Education

The good news is that there’s a plethora of videos that parents and teachers can use to promote a fuller understanding of evolution. If you search for the term “evolution” at The Khan Academy, for example, you find four short videos (most a little over 10 minutes), including “Introduction to Evolution and Natural Selection” (longer than most at 17 minutes).  A similar search at Knowmia produced more than 150 videos; limiting the search to “introduction to evolution” produced six, including a 2 1/2 minute “What is Natural Selection” that would be suitable for younger children and “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution,” an 8 minute video geared for high school or perhaps early college. We could all probably use a refresher in these subjects, if for no other reason than to sharpen our nonsense detectors.

Note: I’ve recently added a link to a new resource, “Online Schools,” which is a very readable  and informative directory of online education in the U.S., listed by State; each school listed also includes information about particular colleges offering online courses and links to the program’s websites. It’s pitched to students but it would be useful for teachers looking for work as well.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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