Teachers are often exhorted by creationists to “teach the controversy.” Although such encouragement sounds on the surface like a proposal for critical thinking instruction, the history of the creationist movement in North America belies this claim. Rather than teach students to analyze and evaluate actual scientific controversies, the intent of “teach the controversy” exhortations is to have teachers instruct students that evolution is weak or unsubstantiated science that students should not take seriously. Such instruction in alleged “evidence against evolution,” or “critical analysis of evolution” would seriously mis-educate students, and should be resisted by teachers and administrators.
It does not take much to insert “the controversy” into a public school biology classroom. Here are some ideas as to how to do this:
1) Don’t mention anything about “the controversy” unless it is raised by a student. Most likely it will be since a fair percentage of the students are primed to bring this issue up. They are primed by parents, preachers, and so on. When the student brings up “the controversy” the creationist biology teacher is presented with at “teachable moment” ripe for exploitaiton.
2) If you follow strategy (1), it is possible that the opportunity to teach “the controversy” will be lost now and then. It is possible that an entire semester can go by without any student really bringing the issue up. Strategy (2) is to start, supervise, or otherwise get involved with a legal extra-curricular Christian group. The very fact that a biology teacher is the faculty supervisor of such a group may be enough to cause a greater number of students to make the connection. But the effect can be virtually guaranteed by bringing creationism (even in the absence of discussion of evolution itself) into the discussion by using Genesis as a discussion template during the first couple of meetings of the group in a given semester or academic year.
3) A teacher can probably get away with (but this is probably not legal) mentioning their own religion along with other facts about themselves during on the first or second day of class during “introductions” or some other “get to know you/me” activity at the beginning of a semester.
Would these activities be considered illegal, or should they be discouraged or made against the rules by a school administration? Is it appropriate to simply not hire teachers who are creationists in order to avoid this problem to begin with?
Should school administrators be on the lookout for teachers using these strategies? if so, how?