Researchers at Penn State University and the National Center for Science Education report that teaching human evolution in public schools has doubled since 2007. The study shows that the percentage of public school science teachers who teach evolution as established science has grown from 51% in 2007 to 67% in 2019. Simultaneously, the percentage of science teachers who discuss intelligent design has dropped from 23% to 14%.
The problem with data like this is that terminology is not defined. There is a difference between teaching human evolution according to neo-Darwinian theory and teaching the fact that living things can change. Nobody denies that new breeds of dogs, roses, corn, cattle, and fish have come into existence within recorded human history. There is also no doubt that racial variations of humans are happening as we watch. The Bible even describes evolutionary change as we read about what Jacob did with Laban’s flocks in Genesis 30:31-43. It is difficult to imagine a competent biology teacher not explaining how these changes come about, and how we can use them to solve the problems of hunger and disease today.
This ministry is based on the belief that science and faith in God are symbiotic. They support each other. It is bad science to teach theory as fact. It is also wrong to be selective in what valid data we use to make decisions about what we teach children. As a science teacher in public schools for 41 years, I know the pressure that teachers face. But avoiding bad science and bad theology is the answer to the evolution/creation controversy. The current pandemic may offer parents and teachers a unique opportunity to improve the education of our students and reduce the tension between science and faith in America today.
Home Schooling has expanded dramatically as public schools struggle with how to open in the face of the pandemic and the difficulties of online classes. Now parents are organizing into “pandemic pods” where they form groups of five to ten children and hire a teacher for that group.
For working parents, this may seem to be an answer to the school situation. The problem is that only families with enough money to hire a good teacher will be able to form these pandemic pods. This sends us back to a segregation issue. Families who join together are likely to be families with similar social backgrounds. This arrangement excludes families living in poverty.
As a public school science teacher in South Bend, Indiana, I saw firsthand another issue that should be considered. I would see students transferred during the school year from a nearby large Catholic high school to Riley High School, where I taught. These were always kids who were discipline problems. One of my friends who taught at the Catholic school told me that their ultimate threat was, “If you don’t behave, we’ll send you to Riley.”
We must remember that these are kids who need an education. Virtual learning and online classes work for highly-motivated students who want to cooperate. What about the kid who is not motivated, has a bad family situation, doesn’t want to be in school at all, and is poor? The coronavirus has given people another excuse to separate their kids from those who are different, racially, socially, and/or morally.
Those making decisions about schools must recognize the importance of educating our children. Parents must make their child’s education a priority. Education isn’t just facts, but it’s also how to get along with people who are different from you. The pandemic pods idea might work if they contain heterogeneous student populations supported by tax money and available equally to all. Allowing parents to segregate children to free themselves from the responsibility of educating them is not an answer.
For those who choose homeschooling, the Does God Exist? ministry has materials that can be helpful in areas of faith and science. Through the years, many homeschoolers have used our video series, which is available to watch free on DoesGodExist.tv or to purchase at THIS LINK. Also, our website DoesGodExist.org has various links and mail-in courses. For science, our Facebook page has daily postings telling about various animals and plants.
In 2013 we had a news item in our printed journal about Walt Tutka, a teacher in New Jersey who was fired because he gave a Bible to a student. After four years, this teacher Bible case is settled.
Tutka said to a student, “So the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” The student asked him where that came from. Tutka showed the student the statement in the Bible, and the student asked Tutka for a Bible of his own. Tutka is a member of Gideon’s International, an organization that distributes Bibles to hotels and hospitals. Naturally, Tutka gave the student a Bible. The school system fired him.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission backed Tutka saying that the school system had unfairly discriminated against him based on his religion. The case was going to be filed as a federal lawsuit in May, but the school district decided to settle out of court. Mr. Tutka is now back in the classroom.
When I was teaching in the public schools in South Bend, Indiana, groups brought books explaining their faith to the schools and gave them to kids who requested them. There were never any problems over that, but times have changed. We have even heard of cases where a teacher had a Bible in their book rack on their desk in a public school and was told to get rid of it or be fired. If a teacher had a copy of The Humanist Manifesto, that would be OK, even though it is a statement of faith–atheist faith.