Letters to the Editor
Kevin Padian's Commentary on California's new science framework ("Framework for Science Curricula Backs Evolution," Dec. 13, 1989) shows just how anxious some people are to ensure that evolutionary theory is not held up to scrutiny.
As far as my own religious views go, it makes no difference to me whether radical evolutionary theories are true or not. My objection to them is that they are so ridiculously unscientific.
The basic problem with any theory of origin is that, since no one was there to see it, all evidence is secondary evidence.
On the one hand, there is a good body of evidence suggesting that the earth is young, which appears to make evolution impossible.
On the other hand, there is evidence supporting the theory.
Are the schools going to teach evidence on both sides? Why should they? Mr. Padian has already stated that evolution is "fact."
I also reject the view that creationists have ulterior motives while evolutionists are interested only in science qua science.
The fact is that both sides have predetermined positions influenced by personal belief.
Evolutionary theory has, from the beginning, been wound up in philosophical reasonings about the nature of man and the universe.
It was widely accepted so quickly because it played into the hands of social Darwinists in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
It has also been used many times to justify racism and laissez-faire capitalism.
In fact, a course on the history of evolutionary theory might be more interesting than the theory itself.
Science is supposed to constantly question its own conclusions to ensure their validity. But "scientists" like Mr. Padian are too busy squelching contrary evidence to ever take a good look at the problems with evolutionary theory.
With such scientists, it is surprising we ever made it past bloodletting.
Kevin Clark Seton Home Study School Front Royal, Va. To the Editor:
Kevin Padian's Commentary misrepresents the creationists.
They don't ask for "equal time"; they just ask that students have the opportunity to hear both views and to learn some of the problems with evolution.
The essay also shows dogmatic thinking, which seems unworthy of a science professor.
Mr. Padian writes, "Evolution is a scientific fact. Period."
And he says that "any scientist knows" it is both a theory and a fact.
John Moore of Michigan State University has compiled a bibliography showing that in every decade since the publication of The Origin of Species, scientists have published criticism of Darwinism, neo-Darwinism, and the modern synthetic theory.
Will any of this material be available to California students?
At a meeting of scientists in 1981, Colin Patterson of the British Museum said that he woke up one morning after 20 years of research on the subject and realized that there was not yet one thing he knew about evolution for sure.
Mr. Patterson cited specifics about molecular homology, amino acid, nucleotide sequence, and mitochondrial dna studies, all of which work against a theory of common ancestry of animals.
"The theory makes a prediction, we've tested it, and the prediction is falsified precisely," he concluded.
Will California's students ever hear this?
Mr. Padian's private definition of scientist seems to be "a scientist who believes in evolution." One who does not is classified as a pseudoscientist.
With these definitions, he can say any scientist knows that evolution is both a fact and a theory.
He equates the "pseudoscientists" with the "religious right" and says that they are "now totally disenfranchised from the public-education system in California" and that people "seem tired of their intolerance of others' views."
It appears Mr. Padian is confused about which side is intolerant of others' views.
Ruth Beechick Education Services Arvada, Colo. To the Editor:
Thank you for your excellent article on the Montessori movement ("Public Schools Embrace Montessori Movement," Dec. 13, 1989).
As a member of the board of directors for the National Center of Montessori Education and executive director of the Amarillo (Tex.) Montessori Academy, I have three comments.
When you quoted Tim Seldin as saying "Montessorians love kids and hate each other," I was shocked. Montessorians definitely love children, but the reason that there are different Montessori organizations is not that Montessorians hate each other but that their purposes are different, just as different colleges offer diverse programs.
While you described the Montessori method in several ways, you did not discuss the philosophy of the elementary program.
In preschool, children absorb what is in their immediate environment. After age 6, they should direct their learning to include all the world, through the process of "cosmic education."
Teaching cosmic vision means showing the intimate relationship between all things. Eachacademic area is seen as a related part of the whole curriculum.
The biggest problem facing Montessori education is the lack of knowledge among educators on all levels and the general public about the Montessori philosophy.
I want every child to have the opportunity to experience this enriched and caring environment.
Ginger McKenzie Amarillo, Tex. To the Editor:
Your article on the Montessori movement is timely and accurate.
Over the past few years, more Montessori programs have begun to appear in public schools.
Maria Montessori was one of the first educators to devise a comprehensive pedagogy based on both society's need to transfer culture and children's innate motivation to realize themselves.
What I find most interesting in the article is the notion that there is little agreement among Montessorians about what a Montessori program looks like.
Despite the fact that there is no "one" authorized training program, Montessori programs vary just as public-school classrooms do, depending on the resources available and the abilities of the teachers.
On the whole, Montessorians have a remarkable consistency in philosophy and pedagogy from program to program, school to school.
It would be worthwhile to understand why Montessori teachers with public-school credentials prefer to work in the Montessori private-school setting rather than the more financially rewarding public sector.
From the data I have collected, it seems that many of these teachers feel that children are not being given the best opportunities to learn--that the public schools' lock-step grade system and narrow focus on teacher-centered and workbook- and test-oriented curricula are far too restrictive for the education of young children.
With the crisis in the child-care system, the Montessori model is an excellent option.
It is time to connect the Montessori training schools with the university and state teacher-training programs.
Marianne D'Emidio Caston University of California at Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, Calif.