Things are about to get interesting for South African biology teachers – as of next year, they will be charged with teaching evolution in Grade 12.
Yes, strange as it may seem, up until now one of the most elegant concepts in science, one of the greatest achievements of human thought, has been avoided as a subject in SA schools. Children have learned about Galileo and Newton and Einstein, but when in comes to Darwin, they have been left in the dark. No longer, says the education department, but it is well aware it’s going to have a fight on its hands.
You see, SA is no different than some other countries we won’t mention directly, in that we have a fairly large religious contingent who similarly believe that their made up stories about the origin of man should somehow compete with, or even overshadow, all that the human race has learned about the world in the last two millenia. Yes indeed, there are going to be plenty of parents who will eagerly point out to any who will listen that they are determined to ensure their children remain as ignorant as they are.
But what you wouldn’t expect is for teachers to be opposed to improving children’s education, yet that is exactly what the education department is facing already:
At a recent conference on teacher training, a teacher said: “I am disappointed about the fact that evolution attacks God’s creation. It also mixes Genesis with idol worshippers of Babylon, which were never there when God created planet Earth.”
Another said he thought the topic should be voluntary because he didn’t think it suitable for people who believe in God. “I am totally against evolution,” another teacher said.
Matters came to a head after snippets of a video, Tiny Humans: Finding Hobbits in Flores, was shown. The video traces the origin of tiny prehistoric humans somewhere on an Indonesian island. They are depicted as short and dark-skinned people. This offended some black teachers. They said that evolution was a racist theory. It “terribly undermines black people, everything bad gets a black colour. It means blacks were apes,” they said.
Right, why not? I mean, it’s not as if their job is to educate people, implying that they might actually be educated themselves. I’m sure ignorance and rash assumption is a requirement for people charged with the edification of our children.
And what is the education department’s response?
The department had been “sensitive to the views of a wide range of persons and attempts at all times to demonstrate this sensitivity” in introducing evolution…
No child would be compelled to “adopt” or “defend the viewpoint or any way subscribe to evolution”. So there could be no reason for parents to take legal action, Vinjevold said.
The department took into account the fact that different theories offered a variety of explanations on the origin of human beings. Evolution was one of such explanations and learners were not expected to believe it, but to see it as one school of thought, she said.
What kind of namby-pamby, bullshit response is that? Can you imagine if they were saying that no child would be compelled to “adopt” or “defend” or “subscribe” to the theory of gravity? That different theories offered a variety of explanations for why masses were attracted to each other, but gravity was only one of such explanations and learners were not expected to believe it? The thought isn’t silly because the theory of gravity is somehow more solid or factual than evolution… it’s just because there isn’t a major world religion that believes the reason planets are attracted to each other, and we to them, is due to Intelligent Falling.