Five Essential Practices for “Culturally Competent” Biology Instructors

(system) #1

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Phil) #2

Great article. I can see that perhaps the problems differ between teachers in private Christian schools, and those in public schools so far as pointing them to specific sources. It would be interesting to hear from those in teaching positions as to their experience. The biggest problem might well be in Christian schools where parents push back if kids are given reading suggestions that conflict with their views.

(Christy Hemphill) #3

Public schools in many parts of the U.S. have similar demographics as Christian schools and teachers face just as much conflict from parents and students. Alabama just made mandatory teaching of evolution part of its state standards in 2015, but textbooks still have a sticker from the State Board of Ed stating that evolution is a “controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things.”

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #4

… wow.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #5

I rather thought the bigger problem would be in public schools, where even discussing religion in the rather delicate ways suggested in the article might be seen as out-of-bounds. I agree it would be interesting to hear from teachers as to how these suggestions might play out… in either public or private arenas!

(Christy Hemphill) #6

I think the situation is different in the South than in the more liberal states you and I grew up in.

At the last BioLogos conference, I heard a presentation by Lee Meadows, an education professor at the University of Alabama who trains public school teachers and has consulted for the Smithsonian. His book on presenting evolution to Christian students in the South was endorsed by the National Center for Science Education. Anyway, it seems like a lot of science education groups are actually recommending the approach of addressing faith-science questions directly in public school classrooms and backing away from anything that looks like a conflict thesis approach. Initiatives seem to be directed as much at the teachers who are hesitant to teach the theory as at the students who are hesitant to learn it.

(Phil) #7

And indeed you would think so, and that is probably true in most parts of the country. In the south, however, public schools probably would have few parents that would push back, whereas the outcry in private Christian schools would be pretty common. In fact, you do not have to look far to find those teaching in private Christian colleges who have lost their jobs over the issue.
I sort of wonder myself, as one of the local church schools used to ask me to volunteer to judge their science projects, but I have not heard from them in the last couple of years since I have become more visible as a voice for evolution, but that may just be paranoia.

(Chris Falter) #8

Do not underestimate the sway of community opinion in public schools in the south. I have attended many churches where the near-unanimous opinion is that the greatest tragedy in hundreds of years of public schooling was the Supreme Court decision to ban official prayer. Second in the list of tragedies is the teaching of evolution.

(Phil) #9

That is true. In many areas, not a lot of difference in the parent demographics in regard to origins belief. And don’t forget the loss of the morning pledge of allegiance to the flag. No wonder we are going down the tubes.

(Christy Hemphill) #10

@Chris_Falter @jpm @AMWolfe

Speaking of public schools in the South, I just saw this news blurb about a bill introduced in the AL legislature last week that would

A different world than the one I grew up in, for sure.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #11

I don’t really get what they are going to teach. And I assume that what they mean is the hyper-literal young Earth interpretation? I imagine the class to go something like this:

  • Okay class, let’s unpack the theory presented by the Bible…
  • In the beginning, or 6,000 years ago God began poofing everything into existence. He then poofed all the animals into existence a few days later and that is it! And remember that evolution is just a theory. Class dismissed!

(Christy Hemphill) #12

Well publishers like Apologia manage to write pretty long textbooks even leaving all evolutionary theory out. But, yeah. Doesn’t sound like the bill was written by a scientist.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #13

I guess the question I have is, “Does this bill have a chance of passing?”

And then, “If it does, are there no objectors with the standing to sue?”

I grew up in a small town (above the Mason-Dixon, even!) where they still had Bible readings over the PA system 30 years after the Supreme Court ruled against them. But all that changed while I was a student because an upperclassman invited local legal scholars from a nearby university town to threaten to sue the school.

But if she hadn’t come along… they might still be doing it…

(Phil) #14

It is interesting that it is worded “allow teachers” to present the alternative rather than require. Even with all the stuff that goes on in the Texas board of education, in the end most science teachers are not YEC and would not teach the alternatives unless forced (which I suppose is why the push is to put it in textbooks, which I suppose is more disturbing)

(Christy Hemphill) #15

I don’t know. But I guess similar bills have come up recently in other states too.

It’s interesting that one Texas teacher thought it was a good idea:

"Kimberly Villanueva, a teacher at a middle school in Texas, thinks that changing the law would actually help keep students in her classroom.

"I had children last year get up and leave the classroom when we taught plate tectonics and evolution,” "

Maybe it’s like that article in the OP says, that when you eliminate the perceived ban on talking about faith in the classroom, it makes students have a more open mind. But I would think it would also allow a significant percentage of teachers to avoid teaching to the science standards and feel license to teach YEC as science instead.

(Phil) #16

I think that all got sidetracked over the fight to designate what bathroom transgender kids go to ( seriously)
In any case, the rules actually got better in Texas when all was said and done this last year:


I wouldn’t be surprised if their chemistry textbooks have a sticker saying “atoms are controversial particles that some scientists present as a scientific explanation for matter”.

(Andrew M. Wolfe) #18

I suppose it’s a good thing there aren’t religion textbooks, or I would be making some snarky comments about the kinds of stickers that might wind up on them in states like Massachusetts…