Neutrality about Evolution

Former sci­ence director’s suit against TEA dis­missed

Comer was put on 30 days of paid ad­min­is­tra­tive leave shortly af­ter she for­warded an e-mail in October 2007 an­nounc­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion that was be­ing given by Barbara Forrest, au­thor of “Creationism’s Trojan Horse,” which says cre­ation­ist pol­i­tics are be­hind a move­ment to in­clude in­tel­li­gent de­sign the­ory in pub­lic school cur­ric­ula. Comer sent the e-mail to sev­eral sci­ence ed­u­ca­tors and two sci­ence ed­u­ca­tion e-mail lists, with the note “FYI.”

In this story I found via an @educationweek tweet, an em­ployee of the Texas Education Agency has her law­suit dis­missed for re­in­state­ment af­ter vi­o­lat­ing the TEA’s “neu­tral­ity” pol­icy. First of all, in­tel­li­gent de­sign, cre­ation­ism, and even say­ing there are doubts about “evo­lu­tion,” may or may not be true or Truth, but it’s not bi­ol­ogy or sci­ence and has no place in a cur­ricu­lum la­beled as bi­ol­ogy. Science is not about Truth, but about the­o­ries that have sur­vived so far for ex­plain­ing things.

If all Ms. Comer were say­ing is some­thing like cre­ation­ism is not sci­ence, then I think she would be fine. There is no ques­tion of neu­tral­ity in this case — it’s just a fact about a cur­ricu­lum mat­ter or close enought to a fact. Where she crossed the line was in link­ing to an event that im­pugned the mo­tives for the cre­ation­ism peo­ple (how­ever jus­ti­fied). Because this in­volved ac­tual ad­vo­cacy, we can say that neu­tral­ity was vi­o­lated in this case.

A Friend for School Gardens

Many peo­ple don’t re­al­ize that our District Engineering Officer, Bill Savidge, is a gar­den­ing en­thu­si­ast him­self. He ac­tu­ally has a blog that has been dor­mant since the end of the last grow­ing sea­son, but will pre­sum­ably bloom again. It’s at http://farmerbillsberkeleygarden.blogspot.com/.

http://farmerbillsberkeleygarden.blogspot.com/

Farmer Bill’s Berkeley Garden via kwout

While Bill is not push­ing gar­dens at schools nor can he guar­an­tee any fi­nan­cial sup­port, he is a sym­pa­thetic ear for peo­ple who are work­ing on school gar­den­ing projects. And, that cer­tainly can’t hurt.

Mentors to Sustain New PTAs

A cou­ple of weeks ago, as part of the Contra Costa County, California (32d District) PTA, I helped Downer Elementary School in San Pablo, CA in the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) start a PTA. They didn’t have the same turnout of sup­port as Meadow Homes (see this en­try), but there is cer­tainly enough sup­port to get started. I’m sure Lisa Ramirez as their President, the prin­ci­pal Marco Gonzalez, and the par­ent co­or­di­na­tor Gloria Orozco will pro­vide a good back­bone, but I still worry about the sus­tain­abil­ity of new PTAs.

That’s why I was heart­ened when Chris Slamon, a par­ent who I don’t al­ways see eye-to-eye with, ap­proached me with the idea of be­ing a men­tor to a fledg­ling PTA. I was very pleased by her of­fer. There is cer­tainly a PTA hi­er­ar­chy to pro­vide sup­port to PTA, but hav­ing some­one whose only job is to help your par­tic­u­lar PTA is even more help­ful for sup­ple­ment­ing this sup­port. Chris has worked a va­ri­ety of PTA jobs and is still a par­ent in the dis­trict, so she makes up one class.

There are also many peo­ple out there who don’t have kids any­more in K-12, have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in PTAing, and have a de­sire to help out some way — but don’t want to take on an of­fi­cial PTA po­si­tion. I know they’re out there, be­cause they came out in droves when WCCUSD banned the PTA for a few weeks. The prob­lem is tap­ping into this pool.