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Fearing intelligent design?

Elizabeth Chicoine

Perhaps opponents to the idea of teaching intelligent design to America’s public school kids fear the person teaching rather than the notion of intelligent design.Maybe the theory is not so bad, but the factor of human error in the delivery of this teaching can be huge. I see religion as a study. I would like for more of it to be taught in our public schools. Children in Europe learn how religion drove their history. Kids in the U.S. only get a smattering of how religion drove world history.But I hesitate to endorse the teaching of intelligent design in our public schools due to the factor of the teacher. What a profound responsibility to teach equitably both God and Darwin. Would the school even be able to offer a solid text to support both of these?Frankly, I can barely find words to explain a higher being, God, to my own kids. Should our teachers be asked to do so? But in a way I see myself torn between the pros and cons of including intelligent design in our schools’ curricula. On one hand, kids today need more of a moral fiber, a belief in the need to have a conscience. Yet, recalling my student teacher days in Colorado Springs back in the late ”80s, I am leery of religious zealots as teachers of our public schools’ youth. During my student teaching in District 11, in the heart of Colorado Springs, I encountered a rather uncomfortable religion-in-public-schools scenario. I was taking a “Teaching Mathematics” course that required on-site visits. The first-grade teacher who was my mentor and supervisor for the class pretty much politely insisted that I attend church with her one Sunday. Being foot-loose-fancy-free, I finally agreed because I was tired of making excuses. What harm could an hour-or-so be to my Sunday time? Well, it turned into a full day and a cult-like experience. I learned a lot from it, actually, because of being a curious one by nature. The teacher passed me through my course, but it was awkward as a result of my non-return to her “church.” Could a young kid be able to thrive in a classroom taught by such a slanted teacher as I encountered? The kids in her class did seem to be separated into camps: those for whom she held out hope, and those with whom she just didn’t connect. How much of this was due to her religious beliefs, I don’t know. But I somehow am drawn back to the memory of her as I reflect upon the evening news telling of a Kansas school board voting to include the teaching of intelligent design in their schools.Could some teachers go too far with this freedom to teach, so to speak? Could their personal views of what intelligent design means be too vague to interpret? My experience leads me to be cautious of how our schools could limit what truths are being taught. Human error can be detrimental, and intelligent design can be misconstrued by some wacky faiths. But I’m not saying it can’t be done, either. Spirituality needs to be brought more into the education of our kids. Parents seem to have less and less time to teach big ideas to our kids and to discuss them. Unlike some commentaries I have read in our paper, I am not quick to blame the president for endorsing the teaching of intelligent design. But I am not ready to insert it into our public school’s curriculum, either.The president is meeting the fact that our kids need to discuss the possibilities of how humankind came to be. He is not saying that this is the one and only possibility. He is offering that it may be a possibility. Also, he may be reacting to his faith and belief that the society of America does seem to be leaning away from teaching kids to think about a basis of their moral fiber. Our president is thinking with both head and heart. I don’t see that as necessarily bad.Our nation’s teachers need to have some authority to talk to our kids with an amount of freedom about why we are here, what are our gifts, what adversity affects us all, and are we ultimately accountable to some designer, if you will. But how will debate of these big questions be held in Kansas high schools? What if a kid dissents and wants to argue the thought? I hope it will be OK to both disagree and agree vehemently. Gifted and open-minded teachers will be needed to guide the discussion. Before adding yet one more thing for our teachers to teach, let’s be sure of the platform and give them the training to address such a profound inclusion to their science manuals.It reminds me of going metric or staying standard in the U.S. Have our public schools ever accepted metric as a way to teach measurement? I was a ’70s kid – totally lost with teachers who never had metric training but who were thrust into teaching it. To this day, I have horrible measurement skills. Who’s to blame, me, the teacher, the program?Before saying you are in one camp or the other on the issue of including the teaching of intelligent design to America’s kids, think about what this means. Don’t just get into the popular camp on this issue. Dig to your gut and think about if you could give any education at all to your kid, public or private, what would it include? Design your own curriculum, and then start trying to make it a reality for your child. The only boundaries are those that start with the words, “I can’t.” Elizabeth H. Chicoine of Eagle writes a weekly column for the Daily. She can be reached at echicoine@centurytel.net Vail, Colorado


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