Thursday, October 15, 2009

High Schools Should Stop Teaching Evolution

I just blogged that there is no such thing as an American conservatism that is not libertarian. It is also true that the rights of people who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible should be recognized and protected. Those who believe in secular humanism have no right to enforce their views on those who hold a contrary view. John Stuart Mill made these two points in On Liberty (I memorized them when I was a teenager):

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind...We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still."

As much as this is true of opinion, it is even more true of religious belief. Those who believe in evolution have no right to stifle the beliefs of those who do not. That is not the job of education.

There is no reason for evolution to be taught in high school. The problem facing high schools is that the students do not learn the basic skills--reading, writing and arithmetic. They do not know history. They do not know civics. American education is a disaster area. Students graduate from high school without knowing how to multiply fractions. So why do the schools have time to teach the theory of evolution? Do they teach the theory of the evenly rotating economy of Ludwig von Mises? Do they teach Locke's ideas on natural rights?

No, they don't. They have plenty of time for failed, irrelevant, left-wing ideology in Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto but they do not have time for Locke or Smith. No set of ideas have been more wrong or more destructive than those of Karl Marx. Yet, the public schools in New York continue to teach Marx's ignorant fantasy.

Just why any high school needs to talk about the theory of evolution when they are graduating students who do not know how to multiply fractions is beyond me. Since the subject is offensive to many, it should be dropped. There is plenty of space in the court of public opinion to discuss Scriptural versus Darwinian ideas.

Secular humanism is bunkum.


Rachel Multari said...

I don't necessarily agree with your generalized statements regarding high school students' basic knowledge. I knew and some 10 years later still know how to multiply fractions. I'm sure there are many many more like me. Maybe we should give students some credit and allow them to CHOOSE what they want to learn, be it evolution or creationism. Isn't that the job education offer all sides of an argument and let the student decide what they think is right.

Mitchell Langbert said...

Rachel, many students are weak in the basics. Just because you have the skills doesn't mean all do. You may be right, but I don't think that the theory of evolution is really an important topic for school. There are many other subjects that are more valuable. For instance, few American students can speak a second language. Few know calculus. Why are these subjects neglected but more ideological subjects like Marx emphasized?

Anonymous said...

So science isn't important?

Mitchell Langbert said...

No, I think science is of paramount importance. However, a good review of what science is is in Bruno Latour's "Science in Action" which gives a vivid account of the actual workings of science. It is not the image that is given to you in school books and in The New York Times. Skepticism, really the modern viewpoint, says that we cannot know anything. Science functions in a way consistent with that view. Things are arrived at in part because of economic incentives and in part because of the power of entrenched viewpoints. A large portion of scientific belief is socially constructed.

If there is a view that is particularly controversial it need not be taught because students can benefit from alternative material. Just to give you a concrete example, few high school students know calculus. There is no reason not to study calculus in high school. Why isn't calculus studied? Is the theory of evolution more important than calculus? I don't think it is for the development of students' intellects. Calculus is more difficult to grasp and poses greater challenges.

A large share of college students graduate below the level needed to do college work. The Gates Foundation points this out--they even have a grant program to remedy it (which they have failed to do, simply wasting their money on left wing theories).

Why can't more time be spent on basic writing, reading and mathematics, so that students can do college-level work? Why is it important to force students to study evolution?