This is just terribly sad – Jerry Coyne gave a lecture on evolution at a public school and a lot of the students were simply “offended” in their religious beliefs.
I am dispirited. I’ve just returned from a two-hour lecture and Q&A session at the Woodlawn Charter School, a public school run by the University of Chicago on the South Side of the city. Some of the high-school biology students are reading Why Evolution is True, and I gave a presentation on the evidence for evolution—with a tiny bit about why religion prevents Americans from accepting evolution, for I was asked to mention that topic—followed by an hour of questions.
Some of the questions were good, and some of the students really interested, but there was also a lot of religious pushback. One student, I was told, sat through the entire lecture muttering about how she shouldn’t be forced to listen to this stuff since it went against her faith. Another student’s “question” was to inform me that she was offended that I said that Adam and Eve never existed (I talked about the human bottleneck of 1200 people), and asked me how I knew that.
And the teacher who invited me told me she encountered stiff resistance from many of her kids about evolution—resistance based solely on their religious upbringing.
That’s just sad. It’s such a waste. So much to learn, so much to explore, and all they can do is mutter and be offended, because adults have fed them a lot of made-up crap along with the idea that they’re supposed to get indignant if anyone says anything different. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. That’s a hokey old slogan, but by god it’s the truth.
School doesn’t work if you don’t approach it willing to be wrong about what you believe.
TBH, I would have likewise been ‘offended’ by evolution at that age, entirely because of my religious upbringing.
Even my high-school biology teacher only brought up the subject occasionally, as he knew the students’ reactions were very negative.
The most ironic aspect was that I was a state ‘finalist’ in biology in the Louisiana high-school academic competition. I had fair amount of biology factoids in my little head, but without an explanatory framework for them (other than goddidit). If I was a ‘finalist’ despite my near-total lack of understanding the TOE, can you imagine the ignorance of the average biology student?
It’s not like we knew the Bible very well, either — mostly just the bits we had crammed into our heads in church, surrounded by loads of halfass intepretation and propaganda.
I’d be curious to know the reactions of these students when they fail the class for non-attendance and not doing assigned work. Of course this isn’t a bad thing. We need more burger flippers and room in the class for kids who are actually willing to learn the required material.
Ophelia Benson says
Ray – well there you go – that was sad, wasn’t it. Fortunately in your case not permanently sad, but sad at the time.
(My early education was sad because I wasted so much of it through sheer bloody laziness and inattention.)
I had my share of that, too. (And still do.)
Aratina Cage says
I don’t remember ever passing on a chance to learn something new because of dearly held beliefs. The kids I remember who were offended by these sorts of things were clearly brainwashed and just parroting their parents who would swoop in at any chance to leverage this “offense” to get people fired or censor things.
Michael Wallace says
Aw man I just wanted to write and say I enjoyed reading your blog.