Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
Stephen Arons's assessment of the Pico v. Island Trees dilemma (Commentary, June 2) namely, which world view(s) should be legitimized in the public school, was generally incisive. In the last paragraph, however, he failed to explain why "right-wing moralists," a pejorative label often applied to a significant minority of Americans who still embrace a Judeo-Christian Weltanschauung, are exercising their right to influence public institutions. They are merely grappling, albeit somewhat awkwardly, with the values and presuppositions of secularism that they believe, correctly, I think, dominate many segments of our public-school enterprise.
James C. Carper Assistant Professor Foundations of Education Mississippi State University
To the Editor:
In her letter in the May 26 issue, Onalee McGraw says my Commentary essay ("Without Raw Materials, Schools Can't Produce Quality and Quantity," May 5) "argues by analogy that human beings (who are other people's children) are bricks." Only the molasses-minded would argue that human beings are bricks, and, in any case, one would hope that the staff of America's largest conservative think tank would recognize the difference between an analogy and a metaphor. Guess not.
She also accuses me, falsely, of being outside the mainstream of academic tradition. She says, "Will the educators who value culture, the life of the mind, and the heritage of the ages come forward to rescue American educators from the mentality displayed by the Iowa nea lobbyist?" She does not know her enemies. Her enemies are precisely those educators who do value culture, and who find very little of it in the policies of an Administration that believes it has no responsibilities in education, in equity, and in the arts.
But her greatest umbrage is reserved for the political activism of educators. I am not surprised that a conservative would object to a group of moderates representing themselves in the same fashion as manufacturers, weapons manufacturers, and others who place the concerns of property and power over the needs of people. Cearly, the Heritage Foundation does not understand why teachers are politically active. Teachers are active politically because their profession requires moderation in government for its effective practice. Hitler's first victims were teachers; the militarists in Japan required every subject to be taught with appropriate military values. Unless we have moderation in government, teachers don't have a profession to practice. That, and that alone, is sufficient to explain why teachers oppose the radical solutions being proposed by the Reagan Administration and its academic lackeys at the big think tanks with the big bucks.
Jim Sutton Administrative Lobbyist Iowa State Education Association Des Moines
To the Editor:
Allen Wai Jang (Letters, March 24) and Richard B. Bliss (Commentary, March 31), while responding to my January 26 Commentary, avoided the argument that creationism is not science. Mr. Bliss, who is director of curriculum development for the Institute for Creation Research, labels creationism a concept-loaded paradigm and model.
A paradigm is a framework of ideas and a body of ground rules used to solve new problems as they arise. The concepts Mr. Bliss seems to offer as a paradigm in his booklet Origins: Two Models, Evolution/Creation, written for use in public schools are 1) the earth is very young; 2) life was originated by a creator; 3) life appeared suddenly; 4) the kinds of organisms have not changed; 5) a flood caused the formation of sedimentary rock layers and the destruction of much life; 6) differences in ecological habitats as well as the variation in the ability of different organisms to escape the flood waters explain fossil sequences; and 7) all life was designed for a certain function and a specific purpose.
These ideas do not coalesce to form a scientific paradigm that is useful in defining and solving problems about the natural world. These ideas do not unify, illuminate, and integrate facts about the natural world. These ideas have not been useful in directing new research or in explaining the fossil records, population changes, the distribution of organisms, and many other observations about the natural world. As a result, creationism has no stature as a scientific paradigm.
Creationism has not been a victim of bias and censorship. Before the Civil War, nearly every college offered a course that presented the aspects of divine design in nature and stressed the fixity of species. In 1876, life-science courses that took a secular approach and were not limited by religious assumptions and traditional viewpoints were designed at Johns Hopkins University. As this approach spread, the ideas that creationists are now trying to reintroduce disappeared gradually from science courses. These ideas fell from their central place in the science curriculum because they were unable to describe the natural world in a manner consistent with observed facts.
Mr. Bliss is nave if he believes the outrage expressed toward equal-time mandates for creationism reflects an effort to put a protective umbrella around evolution. The paucity of creationist research and knowledge makes it clear that the movement does not threaten to revolutionize biological thought. However, the stated goals of some creationists do make it clear that the movement is a threat to the freedom of religion and the integrity of the educational process in this nation. Because of this, it is surprising there has not been more outrage expressed against these mandates.
My earlier statement that "materials written by creationists and recommended as references for public schools are loaded with doctrinal positions, scriptural references, and evangelistic messages" is not false as alleged by Mr. Jang.
The Battle for Creation by H. Morris and D. Gish is listed as a reference in several creationist booklets designed for public schools. This recommended reference has a chapter entitled "Creation and The Christian Life" with scriptural references and doctrinal positions regarding creation and Christian witnessing, creation and the Virgin birth of Christ, and the gospel of creation.
Messrs. Jang and Bliss seem unwilling to acknowledge that other groups might like equal time for their ideas. They seem unwilling to accept that it is not unfair to exclude from a curriculum those ideas that lack explanatory and generative power.
Mr. Bliss concluded his essay with a quote expressing the necessity that the search for knowledge be conducted without religious, political, or ideological restrictions. Certainly, creationists must be free to pursue their research. However, this freedom does not guarantee their ideas or those of others a central place in the curriculum.
Furthermore, Mr. Bliss should extend his plea for intellectual freedom to his colleagues at the Institute for Creation Research by requesting that they drop their recent newsletter request for the names of science teachers who teach evolution. This would be a small step toward establishing a climate in which science teachers and textbooks are free from religious, political, and ideological restrictions and, for once in this century, are free to present a view of the natural world that is consistent with what is known.
Gerald Skoog Chairperson, Secondary Education Texas Tech University Lubbock, Tex.
To the Editor:
I have read with interest the running debate between creationists and evolutionists in your periodical, as well as in others. My personal interest in the subject stems from an experience that began in high school, which carried on into college while I was obtaining a bachelor's degree in biology.
My biology teachers in high school and college taught the theory of evolution as a theory, an opinion of some scientists. They also mentioned that some people believed in some type of "divine force" that caused all things to come into existence. I struggled with these opposing concepts for six years. During that time I read and studied all the evidence that I could lay my hands on. Believing my final conclusion to be as objective as one could be (for I had no dogmatic forces compelling me to accept one view or the other), I see special creation as the only possible explanation for our universe's existence.
Having been in the position of a student and in the crossfire of this debate, I feel my mind was stimulated very much from the study. Now, as a teacher of science, I require my students to keep a notebook dealing with the various topics of the debate. The exercise forces them to practice logical thinking, whatever position they take.
Michael E. Bennett Biology teacher Augusta, Ga.