With a mandate to teach evolution but little guidance as to how, science teachers are contriving ways to turn a culture war into a lesson plan. How they fare may bear on whether a new generation of Americans embraces scientific evidence alongside religious belief.
"If you see something you don't understand, you have to ask 'why?' or 'how?' " Campbell often admonished his students at Ridgeview High School.
Yet their abiding mistrust in evolution, he feared, jeopardized their belief in the basic power of science to explain the natural world - and their ability to make sense of it themselves.
Passionate on the subject, Campbell had helped to devise the state's new evolution standards, which will be phased in starting this fall.
A former Navy flight instructor not used to pulling his punches, Campbell fought hard for passage of the new standards. But with his students last spring, he found himself treading carefully as he tried to bridge an ideological divide that stretches well beyond his classroom. He started withMickey Mouse.
On the projector, Campbell placed slides of the cartoon icon: one at his skinny genesis in 1928, one from his 1940 turn as the impish "Sorcerer's Apprentice," and one of the rounded, ingratiating charmer of Mouse Club fame.
"How," he asked his students, "has Mickey changed?"
Natives of Disney World's home state, they waved their hands and called out answers.
"His tail gets shorter," Bryce volunteered.
"Bigger eyes!" someone else shouted.
"He looks happier," one girl observed. "And cuter."
Campbell smiled. "Mickey evolved," he said. "And Mickey gets cuter because Walt Disney makes more money that way. That is 'selection.' "
Monday, August 25, 2008
When Mice Had Tails
Brilliant (via Boing Boing):