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Pair of students show courage, character

June 10, 2011|By ALLAN POWELL

The stereotype that portrays high school students as self-centered hedonists, obsessed with cellphones and Facebook must now be altered. Two high school students have broken ranks with their peers to take a place of leadership expected of adults. There is good reason to suspect that other youths are showing signs of maturity without attracting the attention given to a precocious sophomore girl from New Jersey and an equally gifted senior boy from Baton Rouge, La.

Amy Myers, a student at Cherry Hill East, has challenged presidential candidate Michele Bachmann to a debate as a means to expose her incorrect statements about American history and the Constitution. It has been observed that  Bachmann shoots from the hip and uses many blanks. While most of the country yawns, Amy thinks she should be held accountable.

Things came to a head when Bachmann gave a speech in New Hampshire in which she praised the listeners of this proud state for the leadership of their ancestors in the American Revolution at the battle of Lexington and Concord. The problem is that this battle took place in Massachusetts. This was only one of many such errors. At present, Amy has had no response from Bachmann.

Zack Kopplin, a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet School, is leading the fight to repeal a Louisiana law that gives teachers the authority to select supplementary texts and support material introducing creationist perspectives into science classes. The creationist literature is to be presented as a viable alternative to the concept of natural selection.

Zack is working to preserve the expectation that high school biology classes should be taught in accordance with the requirements of the National Association of Biology Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Biology Educators. In support, he has secured the signatures of more than 40 Nobel Laureates to help make the case that creationism is not science and does not belong in science classrooms.  

A look at two clauses in the Louisiana Science Education Act appears to make it a straightforward provision to promote “critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories ...” It then states, “A teacher shall teach the material presented in the standard textbook supplied by the school system and thereafter may use supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique and review scientific theories in an objective manner as permitted by the city, parish, or other public school board unless otherwise prohibited by the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.”

It is also clear that teachers are empowered to use supplemental texts that open the door for the use of creationist texts. Remarks on record by members of the Livingston Parish School Board make it evident that this was a common understanding among all school districts. Board member David Tate said, “We let them teach evolution to our children, but I think all of us setting up here on this School Board believe in creationism. Why can’t we get someone with religious beliefs to teach creationism?”

At that point, fellow board member Clint Mitchell spoke up and said, “I agree … teachers should have the freedom to look at creationism and find a way to get it into the classroom.” So much for the pretense of having teachers educate students in “critical thinking skills” and “objective discussion of scientific theories.”  

The larger tragedy is that this same scenario might well be repeated in other schools where there is a determined effort to thwart the teaching of accepted scientific thought. Why did these board members not do this the easy way and encourage those who want to teach religious perspectives to attend the religious institutions of their choice to reinforce their faith-based point of view?

The courage and character of these two youngsters should be an inspiration to young and old alike. When we hear complaints about the failure of public education, the remarkable feat of these two caring youngsters should come to mind.

Keep it up, Amy! Keep it up, Zack! Both of you are a credit to your families and schools.

Allan Powell is a professor emeritus of philosophy at Hagerstown Community College.

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