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News item - Creationist harassment of science teachers

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  • Todd S. Greene
    Excerpt from: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/education/28education.html [go to link for full article] ... Evolution s Lonely Battle in a Georgia Classroom
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2006
      Excerpt from:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/education/28education.html
      [go to link for full article]

      ----------------------------------------------------------------

      Evolution's Lonely Battle in a Georgia Classroom
      by Michael Winerip
      (New York Times, 6/28/2006)

      DAHLONEGA, Georgia - OCCASIONALLY, an educational battle will
      dominate national headlines. More commonly, the battling goes on
      locally, behind closed doors, handled so discreetly that even a
      teacher working a few classrooms away might not know. This was the
      case for Pat New, 62, a respected, veteran middle school science
      teacher, who, a year ago, quietly stood up for her right to teach
      evolution in this rural northern Georgia community, and prevailed.

      She would not discuss the conflict while still teaching, because Ms.
      New wouldn't let anything disrupt her classroom. But she has decided
      to retire, a year earlier than planned. "This evolution thing was a
      lot of stress," she said. And a few weeks ago, on the very last day
      of her 29-year career, at 3:15, when Lumpkin County Middle School
      had emptied for the summer, and she had taken down her longest
      poster from Room D11A — the 15-billion-year timeline ranging from
      the Big Bang to the evolution of man — she recounted one teacher's
      discreet battle.

      She isn't sure how many questioned her teaching of evolution —
      perhaps a dozen parents, teachers and administrators and several
      students in her seventh-grade life science class. They sent e-mail
      messages and letters, stopped her in the hall, called board members,
      demanded meetings, requested copies of the PBS videos that she
      showed in class.

      One parent asked how money could be wasted on a subject like
      evolution: "As budget cuts continuously chip away at our children's
      future of a good, quality college-ready education," she wrote, "I
      would think there would be more educational, more worthwhile and
      certainly more factual learning that could be taught." She requested
      that her son be permitted to "bide his time elsewhere" when
      evolution was taught.

      Ms. New explained that evolution is so central to biology, the boy
      would be biding elsewhere all year long. Practically every chapter
      in her Prentice Hall textbooks — "Bacteria to Plants," "Cells and
      Heredity," "Animals" — used evolution to trace the development of
      life starting with bacteria, green algae and gymnosperms.

      The books were purchased by her district, and she sent her
      supervisors copies, marking evolution references with dozens of Post-
      its, but it didn't seem to register. On April 25, 2005, during a
      meeting about parent complaints with her principal, Rick Conner, she
      recalled: "He took a Bible off the bookshelf behind him and
      said, 'Patty I believe in everything in this book, do you?' I told
      him, 'I really feel uncomfortable about your asking that question.'
      He wouldn't let it go.' " The next day, she said, in the
      lunchroom, "he reached across the table, took my hand and said: 'I
      accept evolution in most things but if they ever say God wasn't
      involved I couldn't accept that. I want you to say that, Pat.'"

      Asked to comment during an interview here, Mr. Conner would say
      only, "I don't want to talk about it."

      Four days after her encounter with the principal, Ms. New was
      summoned to a meeting with the superintendent, Dewey Moye, as well
      as the principal and two parents upset about her teaching
      evolution. "We have to let parents ask questions," Mr. Moye told
      her. "It's a public school. In a democracy people can ask questions."

      Ms. New said the parents, "badgered, got loud and sarcastic and
      there was no support from administrators."

      Babs Greene, another administrator, "asked if I was almost finished
      teaching evolution," Ms. New recalled. "I explained to her again
      that it is a unifying concept in life science. It is in every unit I
      teach. There was a big sigh."

      "I thought I was going crazy," said Ms. New, who has won several
      outstanding teacher awards and is one of only two teachers at her
      school with national board certification. The other is her husband,
      Ward.

      "It takes a lot to stand up and be willing to have people angry at
      you," she said. But Ms. New did. She repeatedly urged her
      supervisors to read Georgia's science standards, particularly S7L5,
      which calls for teaching evolution.
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