Monday, June 18, 2007

Evolution, Embryos & English

The Michigan Department of Education is required to solicit input on new school content expectations and guidelines.   The deadline for comment is June 29. You can review these documents at the links below.

This is comprehensive but important material.  Decisions made this month will determine what our children are taught in schools across the state. Below are some comments I have received regarding some of he content. You can see there are some "interesting" items in the course content.  If you have concerns, you may provide feedback, but your time is limited.  You can email Lisa Hansknecht from the Department of Education at by June 29.

Regarding Science content expectations:

There seems to be some "politically charged" topics included in these expectations: evolution, human impact on the earth, humanity of the embryo and reproduction.

1. Evolution          

The problem arises in determining at what age children should begin to be "taught" about these topics and from which perspective of the "right" answer.  For example, second grade, and even fourth grade, seems far too young to introduce children to the concept of evolution.  If you read the L.EV.02 and L.EV.04 standards, they could easily be taught and titled "Adaptation".  There is no need to introduce the word "evolution" yet.

2. Human impact on the earth
S.IR.02.13 "the effect humans have on the 'natural' world" (are humans not natural?) and E.ES.03.39 "Urban sprawl, strip mining, etc" are also problematic.  Children at this age are not ready to debate the credibility of these issues, so it can only be considered "indoctrination" to a certain perspective.  Should children be burdened with these issues at this age?

3. Humanity of the embryo
L.OL.07.32 "the basic tissue of an embryo" seems a veiled attempt to suggest the collection of developing cells is not actually an embryo.  This interpretation is not one universally accepted by the majority of the science community, let alone the parents of our children in Michigan.
4. Human reproduction
The advantages versus disadvantages of sexual versus asexual reproduction seems odd as well.  Perhaps understanding the difference is relevant, but especially considering the audience of 7th graders, it seems potentially disruptive.


Regarding Languages other than English (LOTE):

Overall, these expectations seem reasonable.  As in science, there seem to be "social policy" issues imbedded in them, which should be eliminated.  Education law should not incorporate indoctrination.  This is important and urgent.They discuss a "pluralistic America" which suggests we are discouraging the assumption that English is the language of America.
I hope you find this informationi useful.  Feel free to contact me if you have any input or suggestions. Regards, 

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