WTF, Atlanta Public Schools?


The Atlanta Journal Constitution has a disturbing article about a science teacher at Grady High School in Atlanta using that infamous “creationism vs evolution” cartoon from the Institute for Creation Research museum, the one that ascribes evolution to Satan, during a classroom lecture. This one:

ICRcartoon

But here’s the problem: That cartoon was on a slide in the Atlanta Public Schools’ central file. The teacher didn’t grab it out of thin air, it was there for teachers to use.

The PowerPoint was assigned for the students to view on the website Blackboard as a part of Anquinette Jones’ freshman biology class. Jones declined comment, saying that the PowerPoint originated with APS.

The PowerPoint, which has more than 50 slides largely consisting of material about evolution, was downloaded from SharePoint, an APS file-sharing database for teachers. It was uploaded by Mary E. King, a project manager at APS who has also uploaded more than 2,000 other documents. Phone calls and emails to King have not been returned. Tommy Molden, science coordinator for APS, also did not respond to requests for comment.

“Evolution is part of high school biology curriculum,” the PowerPoint reads. “You are entitled to challenge everything and encouraged to believe whatever you would like.”

Several students and parents were offended by the implications of the cartoon, including freshman Seraphina Cooley, who is in Jones’ class.

“[I] have gay parents, and [the cartoon] said that evolution caused homosexuality and it implied that to be negative, so I was pretty offended by it,” Cooley said.

Freshman Griffin Ricker, who is also in Jones’ class, said Jones got angry with the class when she found out students had notified the administration. “She yelled and said, ‘This is on the APS website, and it was certified.’”

Still, the teacher certainly should have known that it was completely inappropriate to use that slide. One look at it and it should be absolutely obvious that teaching evolution by showing students a cartoon that says it comes from Satan and causes homosexuality is blatantly wrong.

Comments

  1. says

    I have some issues with that cartoon as well!
    1. Is that pirate in the evolution side? What is a pirate doing in a castle?
    2. That guy on the top of the Christian fort has no business operating that cannon. He is shooting in the wrong direction.
    This cartoon speaks more to Christian incompetence rather than EVIL-ution. No wonder they are losing the war.

  2. John Pieret says

    Well, at least the school district (according to them) acted quickly:

    When the district learned of the PowerPoint presentation and worksheet that is in question, the lesson and supporting documents were reviewed, and they were immediately removed,” said APS spokeswoman Jill Strickland Luse in an email Wednesday.

    As to how it got there in the first place, it seems it had rather lax rules for uploading material:

    The PowerPoint, which has more than 50 slides largely consisting of material about evolution, was downloaded from SharePoint, an APS file-sharing database for teachers. It was uploaded by Mary E. King, a project manager at APS who has also uploaded more than 2,000 other documents.

    The intent of uploading it is pretty clear:

    “Evolution is part of high school biology curriculum,” the PowerPoint reads. “You are entitled to challenge everything and encouraged to believe whatever you would like.”

    But the school district intends to fix it (again, according to them):

    “The district is currently reviewing the vetting process for all lesson plans prior to uploading them for instruction. In addition, the curriculum coordinators will review lesson plans with teachers as part of their pre-planning session later this month.”

    If I were them, I’d start with checking the 2,000+ items uploaded by Mary E. King and reviewing her lesson plans extremely closely.

  3. whheydt says

    The Panda’s Thumb picked up this story and the sources and implications have been discussed pretty thoroughly there.

    Note that the pennon on the left castle is labeled “Humanism”, and *all* of the occupants of the right-hand castle appear to be incompetent.

    The cartoon was used in a book by Ken Ham and looks to be a criticism of Christians that don’t hew to his line more than anything else.

  4. whheydt says

    Re; John Pieret @ #2…

    Mary King appears to be an administrator that uploaded material she was given and is probably not the originator of any of those 2000+ lesson plans. I would put her down as someone just doing her job without paying much attention to the content.

  5. Chiroptera says

    theshwa, #1: 2. That guy on the top of the Christian fort has no business operating that cannon. He is shooting in the wrong direction.

    I think that one is part of the point of the cartoon: the liberal accomodationsist non-literalist Christians are part of the problem. Notice how the secular humanists are aiming for and destroying the foundation of the castle itself while the incompetent liberal Christians are either missing completely or firing at individual balloons.

  6. says

    “You are entitled to challenge everything and encouraged to believe whatever you would like.”*

    * Note: Applicable only to Evolution, Gay Rights and Global Warming.

  7. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ ^ Modusoperandi : But actually its applicable to everything!

  8. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    ..showing students a cartoon that says it comes from Satan and causes homosexuality is blatantly wrong.

    Was the teacher joking, mocking and being ironic (if that’s the word) with that? Coz yoa could sorta understand if so, no?

    Being serious when using it? Nah, not good.

    PS. When it comes to teaching Creationism I favour the compromise of teaching the non-controversy in class -along with phlogiston theory – very briefly and explaining why it ain’t considered science. Also use it as an excercise in teaching kids critical thinking and logic.

  9. says

    I think they should always include a little bit about the Patron Philosopher of Ed’s blog, Giordano Bruno, and his comeuppance for thumbing his nose at Mother Church!

  10. carlie says

    I was also annoyed at the one with the picture of “octomom”. Not only because it’s a cheap shot to use a classroom to make fun of a person, but because she is the opposite of what that slide is saying – it’s about how organisms are capable of naturally producing more offspring than can survive, but she used technology to have more than what’s naturally possible. So I object to it from both sociological and scientific viewpoints.

  11. abb3w says

    The full powerpoint is up in a couple places; the article’s link goes to Google Drive, which I have some troubles with (due to some baroque fascism by my work IT), but another copy can be found here.

    There seems a significant overtone of “the state says I have to teach this, but you don’t have to believe it” at the opening, particularly slides 1 and 6. However, the bulk of the content seems basically sound. There’s a few things I’d be inclined to gripe about from what I know of evolutionary biology and population genetics (variation isn’t “especially” associated to the Galapagos; variations also require selection to produce beneficial adaptations; there’s a modern version of Haekel’s embryos that uses actual photos, which would be preferable to those 1800s dubious drawings), and there’s a few places where I’d suggest different word choice to help de-emphasize the tendency to teleological thinking, but most of that is mere quibbling.

    The octomom picture (slide 22) does appear a societally dubious way to illustrate the idea that “Organisms have more offspring than can survive on available resources”; but Mathus and the abstinence-only crowd might well approve, and the pedagogical value of pop-culture reference humor might help excuse the implied social commentary.

  12. scienceavenger says

    One look at it and it should be absolutely obvious that teaching evolution by showing students a cartoon that says it comes from Satan and causes homosexuality is blatantly wrong.

    One look at nature says they are half right, just not for the reasons they think…

  13. mostlylabrador says

    Regardless of the message meant to be conveyed by the person who put this image in the presentation, does it not seem like this is actually a pro evolution cartoon? The creationists are pointing there cannons at a balloon, the middle of nowhere and a fellow creationist while the evolution side is destroying their castle.

    I personally see this as a satire against creationists.

  14. mudskipper says

    It was apparently meant to be critical of conventional Christian response to Humanism. The message that Ken Ham wanted to convey is that the humanists are correctly targeting the creation story to bring down the entire edifice of Christianity. The incompetent Christians, however, are merely targeting the symptoms of humanism, or shooting entirely in the wrong direction, or putting spit and polish on the Christian message. According to Ham, they should be firing broadsides directly at evolution if they want to bring down Humanism.

  15. johnhodges says

    I see the cartoon as a criticism of non-fundamentalist Christians. Ken Ham et.al. feel that you’ve just GOT to regard the Bible as the inerrant Word Of God, or you are lost. So, you have to read it for the “plain meaning of the text”, no allegories or extended metaphors allowed. They may feel the first line of Genesis is especially important, for by extension if you doubt the plain meaning of the first line, you could certainly doubt anything and everything after that. The “argument from design” is the most intuitively appealing of all the philosophical arguments (for the existence of “God”) they have, if they give it up they lose all other arguments as well.

    There is also the game of “holier than thou”… one way to play it is “More Christian than thou”, and since Christianity is about what you BELIEVE (as contrasted to what you DO) then the ultimate Christian would be one who believes it all, cover to cover.

  16. caseloweraz says

    “Evolution is part of high school biology curriculum,” the PowerPoint reads. “You are entitled to challenge everything and encouraged to believe whatever you would like.”

    Way too literal. Needs more nuance. As written, it opens the door to every wackaloon idea there is.

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