Response paper: Science and religion in the classroom?

Secondary School Science Teaching Methods

Adam Johnston & Sharon Ohlhorst

DUE: Wednesday, October 6th

Readings (available under “Readings” on the course webpage):

bullet Science and religion: Meadows et al., "Managing the conflict between evolution and religion"
bullet Jackson, D., Doster, E. C., Meadows, L., & Wood, T. (1995). Hearts and Minds in the Science Classroom: The Education of a Confirmed Evolutionist. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32(6), 585-611. [Not available online, but it is in the library, Q1.J86; or come borrow a copy from Adam Johnston.]
bullet Talmadge, "The Earth and Man"
bullet Jeffery, "Seers, Savants and Evolution: The Uncomfortable Interface"
bullet . . . and other resources that may be listed, or as you may find them.

Suppose you have the following scenario: A parent, school board member, or administrator comes to you and suggests that you teach in addition to evolution/solar system origin/big bang theory (select one of the above), that you should offer alternative theories, such as creationism, intelligent design theory, etc.  The parent/board member/administrator suggests that, since science should keep an open mind and since there is no definite proof of anything, we should offer students all of the viable alternatives to a particular scientific explanation.  You can read the writing on the wall: Parents, board members, and administrators are often intimidated by science content that runs against a religious belief, and many want students to feel like they have an alternative belief that can be presented in a science context.

Making reference to at least one outside reference of your choosing, justify the position you will take in response to the above suggestion.  Is this a good idea?  Why or why not?  How do you justify your curriculum to an outsider?  How do you describe your goal for science education in your classroom?  Does it misrepresent science to offer this alternative explanation?  Why would you want to present only one scientific explanation if science is supposed to be open to new ideas and is supposed to use all evidence in its explanations? 

Draft this response paper as a letter to this parent/board member/administrator.  In two pages, explain your response to the request and justify it.  Remember, you need to be considerate of a parents’ concerns for their children, clear enough to make your point to a board member, and simple enough in your explanation so that even an administrator can understand.  J