Letters To The Editor
In order to respond fully and appropriately to Russell T. Arndts and George T. Wright and their letters in defense of the introduction of creationism into the public schools ("Creationism and Evolution: Clarifying the Issues," Education Week, Aug. 22, 1984), one would have to examine such fundamental questions as: what is meant by education, what is meant by science, and what should be denied admittance to a curriculum in a democratic society, not to mention other complex questions related to these three.
Obviously, the letters column of Education Week is not the proper forum to consider these questions in detail. Those who are interested in pursuing these matters in some depth might write me (enclosing a self-addressed envelope) to request a copy of my paper entitled "The Peculiar Origins of the Creationist Movement, Its Scandalous Life, Its Deserved Death, and Its Unconscionable Resurrection." The paper will be delivered at the annual conference of the Southeastern Regional Association of Teacher Educators in November.
I would like to respond briefly to Mr. Arndts's argument that we should teach the "two-model" approach to evolution. I notice that Mr. Arndts labels himself a professor of chemistry. I assume, given his orientation, that he would have no objection to teaching the two-model approach in his discipline, namely, alchemy and chemistry. After all, throughout human history alchemy has had a long and honorable career. I think it only fair that we give it equal time and not merely indoctrinate our innocent students with modern chemistry. Let students be free to choose between the two after they hear both sides. (I assure those of you who are not overly familiar with either alchemy or creationism that there is as much scientific evidence for one as there is for the other.)
And of course, we should certainly introduce the two-model approach in astronomy. There are some 40 million adult Americans who take astrology very seriously indeed. Why shouldn't the American school give these perfectly good citizens representation in our science curricula? Let's teach both astrology and astronomy, give them equal time and effort, and let the students make up their own minds.
And then there is Mendelian genetics and Lysenko-Lamarckian genetics. Certainly, there are at least two sides to the study of genetics. Simple fairness dictates equal time. And there is phrenology and psychology. And the geocentric theory of the solar system and the heliocentric theory of the solar system. Certainly, the student is entitled to hear both sides. Need I go on?
Mr. Arndts is more than a little disingenuous when he mentions the modifications of evolutionary theory recently proposed in the last decade. He is undoubtedly referring to the theories of Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge. [Mr. Gould is a biologist at Harvard University and Mr. Eldredge is with the American Museum of Natural History in Washington.]
But both Mr. Gould and Mr. Eldredge remain staunch evolutionists and Darwinians, and vigorously reject creationism as not being in the purview of science at all.
As for that hoary chestnut trotted out by Mr. Arndts and creationists on innumerable occasions--that"there are no intermediate fossils"--I can only say in this limited space that this is simply false. I refer him and others to the March 1984 issue of Scientific American in which it is stated: "Evolution theory has been subjected to rigorous verification over the last 100 years and in its broad outlines is as certain as anything we have in science." Furthermore, paleontologists no longer have to rely completely on the fossil record since the discovery of radio-immunoassay techniques [methods that use protein and genetic traces from bones to tie together genetic relationships] to establish developmental relationships.
Finally, it is clear that Mr. Arndts wishes our schools to teach the Christian version of creation and not the hundreds of non-Christian versions of creation that exist. If we are going to teach creationism alongside evolutionary theory, we should, in all fairness, make room for them all. If Mr. Arndts is willing to permit that, I will join him in his crusade for equal time. Our kids could use a good course in comparative religions.
As for Mr. Wright, no good scientist rejects a hypothesis out of hand, including the one that God created the universe and the creatures in it and that the Christian Bible is an accurate accounting of that creation. As William James put it, a scientist is "free to follow any hypothesis that tempts the will." However, every good scientist requires certain standards of verification. Neither Mr. Wright nor others have managed to convince the overwhelming majority of the world's scientists, including those who profess and practice Christianity, that the Scriptural accounts are without scientific error. As the priest who defended Galileo put it, "Scriptures tell how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."
Robert Primack Editor "Foundations Monthly Newsletter" College of Education University of Florida Gainesville, Fla.
In the past few weeks, some attention has been given to the' National College Counseling Project, an effort to assist in assessing the state of college counseling services available to high-school students ("College-Bound Poorly Counseled, Group Finds," Education Week, Aug. 29, 1984).
As a former college counselor, I was disappointed that recent national reports analyzing secondary schools had not given more attention to the challenges faced by guidance personnel in their efforts to fulfill their responsibilities. Among these challenges are increasing administrative tasks, cutbacks in staffing and resources, low college-aspiration levels of students, and an unmanageable amount of available information about colleges and universities. Counselors are a vital link for students who are progressing from secondary to higher education.
I met earlier this month with Frank Burtnett, assistant executive director of the American Association of Counseling and Development, to discuss the purpose of the project. Members of his association share with the project participants a commitment to common goals. A similar discussion took place with Charles Marshall, executive director of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (see accompanying letter). Mr. Burtnett has agreed to serve on the advisory panel that will provide guidance as the project progresses. We are hoping that Mr. Marshall will participate as well.
The original sponsors of the National College Counseling Project had agreed to fund a survey, the singular purpose of which was to better serve the needs of students and college counselors. Our enthusiasm for the project and excitement about initial findings resulted in premature remarks that, considered out of the context of the scope and purpose of the study, caused subsequent confusion and concern. We welcome hearing about innovative programs and look forward to working with counselors and colleges as they develop even better ways to serve students.
David Erdmann Director The National College Counseling Project Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy, N.Y.
Beth: This must follow Erdmann. Thanks, pw.
Unfortunately, the research done by the National College Counseling Project reflects the negative side of the counseling process that affects thousands of high-school graduates. As with any research, averages imply both good and bad situations.
It is virtually impossible for counselors to do an effective job of advising students for college when the process the counselors represent in the critical transition from secondary to postsecondary education is ignored not only within their community but also in the various national reports on the state of American education that have come out in the past year.
All too often, when local school budgets need to be trimmed, counseling services are cut back where they are needed the most. In today's society, with the college degree replacing the common value of the high-school diploma, the counseling process for postsecondary opportunities needs to be enhanced, not diminished. The researchers of the National College Counseling Project could have stressed the fact that counselors, as brokers of information for students, need help in time and resources to do their jobs more effectively.
Recently, the U.S. Education Department recognized a number of high schools across the country for outstanding progress toward excellence in education. Most of these high schools have in place not only high-quality counseling programs but also counseling programs that receive support in their task of providing a total educational environment of excellence, not just academic preparation.
Counseling is and should be an integral part of a student's educational experience--though counselors, unfortunately, are not seen as teachers or administrators. Thus, they cannot be selected out as the reason for poor performance in college--they are a part of the larger educational problem within a given school or community.
What counselors need is an opportunity to enhance their body of knowledge about this ever-changing process. They need to have access to professional meetings and be provided with the resources to visit college and university campuses. They need to be relieved of the other administrative duties that affect the counseling environment and lead to the negative press which you have recorded. They need to help students understand their rights and responsibilities in the admissions process.
We all recognize that education today is on the firing line and the counseling process is not different. To help everyone respond to the concerns facing us in the education profession, you might want to report in the future on the many and varied model counseling programs that are helping students select colleges.
Charles A. Marshall Executive Director National Association of College Admissions Counselors Skokie, Ill.
The Heritage Foundation has circulated editorials to small-town weekly newspapers in the country, which often print those editorials because they lack adequate staff to prepare their own. The foundation's recent editorial on school prayer is highly prejudicial and appeals to a general lack of information that people outside schools have about the prayer issue.
I would like to provide educators in a variety of settings with some views on the prayer issue that may enable them to escape the charge that they are anti-religious or anti-God if they do not favor public prayers in schools.
The plain and simple truth is that no court has ever taken away the right of any student to pray in school if that student is moved to do so and if the student does it in a manner that does not disrupt lessons or other educational activity. Teachers also may pray any time they wish as long as they do not use their position to force students to hear them pray or to participate in the prayer. In other words, everyone has the right to pray to his or her God in the privacy of his or her own heart. No court has ever attempted to take that away.
It is remarkable that people who are attempting to use wrong information to get votes, and who are willing to dishonor God by proposing a watered-down and meaningless public prayer in the schools to get those votes, should be accusing the courts or the schools of "discriminating against God."
Perhaps we should let the best authority of all speak on the subject. The Living Bible quotes Jesus in Matthew 6:5-9: "... about prayer. When you pray, don't be like the hypocrites who pretend piety by praying publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. Truly that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, all alone, and shut the door behind you and pray to your Father secretly, and your Father, who knows your secrets, will reward you."
"Don't recite the same prayer over and over as the heathen do, who think prayers are answered only by repeating them again and again. Remember, your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!" Jesus then suggests that a prayer, which we call "The Lord's Prayer," is a model for the kind of praying we should do in private.
Perhaps we should all pray forgiveness for people who would use God and schoolchildren to contaminate both an election and our worship.
William W. Wayson Professor, Department of Educational Policy and Leadership Ohio State University Columbus, Ohio