Anyone can get on a school board


Why, just look at the Brainerd school board. Sue Kern even made president!

During a recent meeting of the board, President Sue Kern asked two educators why evolution is being taught, reported the Brainerd Dispatch.

“Darwin’s theory was done in the mid-1800s and it’s never been proven,” Kern asserted to Director of Teaching and Learning Tim Murtha and Craig Rezac, a high school science teacher. “So I’m wondering why we’re still teaching it.”

To their credit, Murtha and Rezac remained poised and professional, calmly explaining to Kern that evolution has been documented, that it serves as the foundation of modern biology and, furthermore, its instruction is mandated by the state’s science standards.

Kern then went on to ask, “And with regard to Christian students – how do you do that? They’re taught not to agree with that, so.”

Rezac’s reply could not have been better: “This is science, and science deals with facts. It doesn’t deal with belief. It doesn’t have to be a dilemma or a concern for someone to choose between Christianity and evolution – that’s not what this is about. You can actually embrace both. It’s my duty as a teacher to teach science and not teach religion. That’s the separation of church and state.”

I’m sorry, my brain shorted out at the claim that Darwin’s theory was done. Theories are never “done”. Evolution has so much evidence behind it that it is ludicrous to deny it anymore.

How she arrived at that bad idea is clear, at least. She thinks Christians are taught that evolution is false! Some Christians are taught that, unfortunately, and usually they are the vocal, obnoxious ones who run for school board president and represent Christianity badly. I think. Although, realistically, I’ve noticed that most Christians will sit quietly and not object to characterizations of their faith like that by Kerns.

Is there an impeachment process for school boards? And if there is, is it as timidly executed as the one at the federal level?

Comments

  1. PaulBC says

    Although, realistically, I’ve noticed that most Christians will sit quietly and not object to characterizations of their faith like that by Kerns.

    I am usually happy to point out that I had a Catholic upbringing and education in the 70s in which evolution was not only an uncontroversial scientific principle but taught in my biology class at a private Catholic school. In fact, it wasn’t until I went to college that I realized there were any educated people who were serious about creationism. I thought it was analogous to belief in a flat earth. In fact, it was probably only in the last 15 years (well out of grad school) that it hit me there are substantial numbers of YECs and believers in Noah’s Ark (very obviously a fable).

    Would I interrupt someone to point this out? Eh, I guess it depends on circumstances. I sort of need to be in the right mood to get confrontational. I would definitely object if someone asserted that I personally was taught that “evolution was wrong” as part of my Christian education.

  2. raven says

    I would definitely object if someone asserted that I personally was taught that “evolution was wrong” as part of my Christian education.

    My old large and rich Mainline Protestant sect doesn’t have a problem at all with evolution.
    They say so right on their website.

  3. raven says

    Most Mainline Protestant and Catholic colleges and universities teach evolution in their biology departments.
    That would be Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, UCC, Catholic, etc..
    Sue Kern is just lying when she claims xians have a problem with evolution.
    That is a fundie things.
    No surprise.
    Creationism is just a lie anyway.

  4. zoniedude says

    I find it disturbing that no one explains that “evolution” is an assortment of empirical evidence while a theory, any theory, is merely an explanation of those empirical “facts”. Part of the problem here is that disproving Darwin, or disproving any alternative theory, does nothing to the facts. Both sides here seem to be conflating “evolution” which is the empirical reality with the “theory” which is merely a proffered explanation. The explanation is important because it provides a means of reasoning in a lot of different circumstances, thus it has logical import. But DON’T confuse any theory with the empirical set of phenomena it attempts to explain. I confronted a creationist one time by giving the example of finding the body of an elderly person at the foot of some stairs. The police officer theorized the elderly person lost balance and fell down the stairs. When they picked up the body they found blood and a bullet hole in the person. The theory was therefore wrong, but the person was still dead.

  5. says

    This is a situation my wife once told “can’t happen here” because of the Minnesota Miracle of well funded public education. Guess what, honey, you wee wrong, and the “Miracle” is long dead. IT not only can, but did happen here.There are none so blind as he who will not see, none so deaf as she who will not hear and none so stupid as those who will not learn.

  6. woozy says

    “I find it disturbing that no one explains that “evolution” is an assortment of empirical evidence while a theory, any theory, is merely an explanation of those empirical “facts”. “

    I kind of find it annoying that so many people do do that. They explain in great detail that is science you don’t “prove” things so much as verify and strengthen things and find evidence supports a specific claim and that alternative claims simply don’t hold up and are false.

    Then it flies over the heads of the science deniers who just say “so you admit that evolution has never been proven?” and the science affirmatives say “yeah, but did you listen to what I just said?: science doesn’t work that way” and the science deniers just hear no-ones actually proven evolution and we just use weasel words to manipulate what we want science to mean so we can make claims that we want to believe something is true without any proof at all.

    I sort of wish someone would respond: “I don’t know where you are getting your information when you claim no-one has proven that evolution is true because that is just plain weird. Every biological advance in the last 150 years has confirmed and verified evolution and evolution is as true and has been verified as much as the theory of gravitation, electro-magnetism, chemistry or any other scientific body of knowledge”. Then if they wish to point out that we weaseled out and substituted their word “prove” with our words “confirm and verify” and these are not actually the same thing, it’s up to them to point out the difference (and in doing so the burden on them to justify why a “lack of proof” is in anyway significant).

  7. pilgham says

    Seems you could make the same quibbles about gravity. The theory only predicts motion. The fact that we can’t find a counter example means nothing. (I know, Einstein has given us a new theory and we can find a ton of cases where the old theory is wrong). But nobody suggests we abandon gravity, just as nobody serious suggests we abandon evolution.

    Evolution is a theory. It started as observations coupled with a theory to allow predictions, and for 150 years it has done pretty well in bearing those predictions out. Plus we have learned a great deal about DNA, genetics, and reproduction and it all fits and even explains how evolution “works”, how the mechanisms are effectuated. If it were just a collection of facts, any research would turn up things that fit and things that don’t, but that doesn’t happen. I guess the issue is finding the difference between a theory that makes correct predictions, and a theory that just happens to be right all the time. Unfortunately, that is philosophy and I can’t do that.

  8. nomdeplume says

    Yes, this is the same problem again. Creationists believe, or pretend to believe, that no work has been done on evolution since 1859. That is why they refer to “Darwinism”, a term no one else uses (or has ever used). Pretend that this is just one man’s wild guess and you can teach that Ken Ham’s opinion is just as good.

  9. robert79 says

    Newton’s theory of gravity “was done” over three centuries ago but has never been proven. We still teach it in school. I would invite this school board president to attempt to disprove it by jumping off the nearest cliff and flying back to us.

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    nomdeplume @ # 10: … “Darwinism”, a term no one else uses (or has ever used).

    My just-now search came up with 10 hits on the first page: (in order) seven taking the term seriously, two from hostile creo-wingnuts, and one on the tangential/parasitic “social darwinism”.

    As I recall (won’t bother to dig for it just now), quite a few Brits (including R. Dawkins) tend to use the term, apparently as a semi-conscious exercise in national chauvinism.

  11. nomdeplume says

    @16 Thanks Pierce, I am surprised by your finding. Can’t imagine why that would be so. “Newtonism”? “Einsteinism”? “Pasteurism”? “Huttonism”?

  12. snarkhuntr says

    This is one of the asymmetries between the secular and religious fundamentalist approaches to the world.

    They’re motivated to run for these small but influential political offices. Indeed, I recall there being a concerted approach to get more fundies onto school boards. While we’re happy to sit back and assume that the professionals in the school system will take care of getting the kids educated, they’re willing to spend time and effort on getting into a position to influence them.

    We need more overtly secular people running for these posts. Every time there’s a story about FFRF or AA fighting a lawsuit against a school that wants to have mandatory prayer for the basketball team, there’s a non-story about the schoolboard that voted to approve funding for that lawsuit, voted to continue the contract of the anti-trans principal, etc.

    This seems like it could be a campaign issue. Local issues are the ones that are most influential on people’s bank balances. It wouldn’t take much data crunching, for example, to be able to send out a customized mailer to each homeowner in the local school district that says something like “Of the [X$] in school taxes that you were assessed last year, school board members [y,z,a,b] voted to spend [pro-rated amount that you can attribute to that specific ratepayer] on a doomed lawsuit trying to keep the ten commandments in the school lobby. Do you want this kind of irresponsible spending to continue, or will you vote for [secular candidate] who wants to reign in this excessive spending and prioritize on our kids education”.

  13. Reginald Selkirk says

    Kern then went on to ask, “And with regard to Christian students – how do you do that? They’re taught not to agree with that, so.”

    I am happy I am not the one dealing with this. I would be tempted to tell her that not all Christian churches are as stupid as hers. Except maybe I would add a few adjectives.

  14. Reginald Selkirk says

    #2 “My old large and rich Mainline Protestant sect doesn’t have a problem at all with evolution.”
    #3 “Most Mainline Protestant and Catholic colleges and universities teach evolution in their biology departments.”

    Yes. And over the course of the last century or so; as “liberal” and “mainline” churches become more accepting of science and modernity, worshippers have left those denominations to fill the pews of the Evangelical churches; the ones we know as Fundy.

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