The Devil in Dover

When I go to meet the teachers or administrators at my daughter’s school, I whisper these words to each of them:

“I just want you to know that I’m involved in a number of organizations that seek to protect the quality of science education in our public schools. If you ever need any support, if you are ever getting any trouble from parents, administrators, whatever, you can rely on me to help, to put you in touch with whom you should speak, to talk to anyone you’d like me to talk to, or anything else you need.”

This recieves a nod and a side long glance that I try very hard to interpret but rarely can. Then, regardless, I follow up by whispering these words:

“Oh, and if you happen to be of the mind to push a little religion, creationism, whatever, into the classroom …. the I’ll be your worst nightmare. I’ll be the one on the other end of that career ending law suit.”

At this point, the science-supporters usually laugh heartily. The creationists also laugh. But nervously.

You may or may not have a child in school that gives you this wonderful opportunity to embarrass your son or daughter, but you can still call the principal or any of the members of the school board and let them know how you feel, as a citizen, taxpayer, and voter. And, if you like, you can do what I do periodically: Give your school principle or science teacher a gift. Today, I’m recommending a copy of a book that outlines the nightmares of being in a school system that becomes a battle ground for science education vs. creationism.

Lauri Lebo covered the famous Dover Creationism Trial as a reporter. She was also a local citizen who lived the experience from the point of view of someone who’s home turf became a national battle ground. She also had a father who was very much on the creationist side in this fight, while Lauri supported good science education, so the Dover trial was personal in yet another way.

Everyone in Dover suffered because of the Dover trial, especially the school. It cost money, it cost time, it cost warehouses full of emotional energy. No community should have to undergo something like this, and no school system should be burdened with being the testing ground for a major federal court decision.

And, for this reason, if you are a reacher or a parent concerned with quality science education, you need to pick up a copy of Lauri Lebo’s book, The Devil in Dover: An Insider’s Story of Dogma v. Darwin in Small-Town America, and give it to your favorite school administrator or school board member. Perhaps anonymously (if you are a teacher) or perhaps quite overtly (if you are a parent).

At the beginning of every school year, I try to post new and “the best of” blog posts specifically written for teachers. If you want to see this year’s “back to school special” posts in a list, click here. I’ll be posting these items through the month of September. There will likely be one or two items new every day.

Please feel free to send a link to all your teacher friends so they know about it!!!! And, if there is something you’d like to see discussed, let me know.

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12 thoughts on “The Devil in Dover

  1. Who would you recommend putting them in touch with? We’ll be here in Georgia for the next 10 years or so. Our daughter just started school, but Cobb County (Creationist disclaimer stickers in the science textbooks controversy) is only an hour from here and I can see us dealing with this in the next 10 years.

  2. I would say go to the school board meetings, in addition to staying active within the individial school. Ours are twice a month, with occasional special meetings. They can be tedious, but if anything starts brewing, you’ll know about it right away.

    And seconded on Lebo’s book. It’s very well-written, not long, but thorough. It delves a little into her own personal story, recounting some of her conversations with her father who ran an evangelical radio station, which gives an interesting background on the setting and social environment the plaintiffs were dealing with.

  3. I’m curious what any of you would have done in my situation. I’m not a scientist, but through my astronomy club I’ve created many oportunities to share my view of science with public and private schools. My club put on an astronomy night for a creationist school, which interviewed me before the event to explain their creationist position and learn if that’s a conflict. When asked about evolution, I said that the subject doesn’t come up, but stellar distances, and therefore the time implied by them, does. They were ok with distances of millions of light years.

    Then, and now, I would have hated our differences on evolution to have scuttled what was a successful night of science. I’ve reached the conclusion that I’ll get no where on climate change or evolution with some groups unless they like me first. Pandering?


  4. It’s a superb book. Unfortunately, she took her time with it while lesser books that were more promptly (hurriedly?) published garnered more interest because they were still riding the wave of publicity from the trial.

  5. A fine idea to gift Ms. Lebo’s book to teachers and other school officials.
    My daughter is currently taking 10th grade biology and is using Ken Miller’s “dragonfly” textbook. Dr. Miller’s book was in the middle of the Dover trial, and he was on of the expert witnesses for the winning side.

  6. when i was a child science and the citizens of the united states wiped polio off the earth. that was our high point as a nation i believe. and back in the fifties and sixties i got a damn decent education in the public schools without church intrusion.
    sunday school was on sunday, education was monday through friday, and religion i have now reasoned is a mental disorder. religion in any guise or dose has no place in schools. none.

  7. Give your school principle or science teacher a gift. Today, I’m recommending a copy of a book that outlines the nightmares of being in a school system that becomes a battle ground for science education vs. creationism.

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