Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tennessee vs The Squints

Tennessee, my adopted home state, is no stranger to scientific controversy. Adding fuel to a decades-old fire, the state recently approved a bill that would provide legal protection for teachers who, as one web site puts it, "criticize well supported scientific concepts."

Critics, including many scientists, talk about this like it's a bad thing.

Pardon me, but since when is protecting freedom of speech a bad thing?

People have lost perspective. The fact remains that many "scientific concepts" are exactly that: concepts. They are theoretical in nature, and ever-changing based upon new research. (Illuminating and fun read here.)

But this post is not meant to be a creationism vs evolution debate. Nor am I going to weigh in on the merits of climate change / global warming. This is about education.

If you censor teachers and don't allow them to teach point/counterpoint––especially when said counterpoint is based on cultural or religious beliefs that have existed for thousands of years and should thus be afforded some modicum of respect––then education becomes the very thing many intellectuals claim it is not: indoctrination.

And it's not just teachers at risk here. If students––all of whom are going to have their own unique perspectives––spark a debate in the classroom about widely-held scientific beliefs, would not their rights also be trampled on if a teacher was required to squash the conversation?

It is complete and utter hypocrisy to teach our kids the value of fairness, equality and tolerance with subjects like gender identity or bullying, but then tell them they cannot believe what they want about science or religion.

Academia is not black and white. Neither is science, religion, or culture. They are all organic and (ahem) evolving in their own ways, based largely upon the conscience and moral compass of those who explore them. And in such an interwoven tapestry, where everything is inexorably linked and nothing stands alone, why would anyone want an army of milquetoast educators too afraid to teach from the heart?

There's gotta be some quid pro quo in the classroom, or we're all fascists.