Thursday, April 26, 2007

Should Creationist Students Be Allowed into College?

 
Read all about it in the Stanford News [Kennedy lectures on challenges facing K-12 science education].
High school students who are taught creationism instead of evolutionary theory lack the critical thinking skills that are necessary for college, according to Stanford President Emeritus Donald Kennedy.
That sounds like something sensible although I'm not sure the correlation is a cause and effect relationship. Perhaps the lack of critical thinking skills and the teaching of creationism have a deeper cause?

I don't think that a student should be banned from college just because they're a creationist but I do think they need to demonstrate that they're ready for college. The ideal situation would be to have standardized entrance exams. The SAT's don't count.
Kennedy is currently serving as an expert witness for the University of California Regents, who are being sued by a group of Christian schools, students and parents for refusing to allow high school courses taught with creationist textbooks to fulfill the laboratory science requirement for UC admission. After reading several creationist biology texts, Kennedy said he found "few instances in which students are being introduced to science as a process—that is, the way in which scientists work or carry out experiments, or the way in which they analyze and interpret the results of their investigations."

Kennedy said that the textbooks use "ridicule and inappropriately drawn metaphors" concerning evolution to discourage students from formulating independent opinions. "Even with respect to the hypothesis that dominates them—namely, that biological complexity and organic diversity are the result of special creation—critical thinking is absent," he added.
I don't see why a college or university should be obliged to accept a creationist biology course as a legitimate science course.

[HatTip: RichardDawkins.net]

20 comments :

  1. I don't see why a college or university should be obliged to accept a creationist biology course as a legitimate science course.

    Larry, Larry, Larry.... Have you learned nothing about Framing????

    Don't you understand????

    If you start telling people that their religious beliefs (you know, the ones that result in them ending up in these bogus courses to begin with) are wrong, then you will be unable to communicate your science effectively. You HAVE to let these students into college. In fact, you have to kiss their asses.

    And, if you don't accept this position, my new friends Matt and Chris will come over to your site an make you APOLOGIZE.

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  2. I don't think they should be kept out of college, quite frankly, if only because it's a risky place for uncritical thinking to continue. Although this is more an example of lateral transfer rather than from high school, we might not have Bart Ehrman were he kept out of a more mainstream collegial atmosphere.

    While there should be and might be an introductory course to acquire the lab component, I don't think they ought to be under the gun to accept the creationist biology materials on par. There is something seriously incompatible with science with the likes of winners of the 2001 Fellowship Baptist Science Creation Fair, where at the high school level you get such lovely gems as "Using Prayer To Microevolve Latent Antibiotic Resistance In Bacteria" and "Maximal Packing Of Rodentia Kinds: A Feasibility Study" (for Noah's Ark feasibility)

    College-level biology is not Creative Writing 101.

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  3. Perhaps the lack of critical thinking skills and the teaching of creationism have a deeper cause?

    They're connected, but I'm not sure how to describe the connection. Critical-thinking skills can be boiled down to three simple imperatives: 1) never forget your assumptions; 2) always question whether your assumptions and your data are accurate, and be equally prepared to accept "yes" and "no" as an answer; 3) once you have established a particular statement or datum as reliable, don't question it again unless relevant new data becomes available.

    Teachers who teach creationism as science are committing fraud against their students. Students who accept that teaching aren't doing anything wrong ... until they learn there's data that contradicts what their teachers told them. A student could become a brilliant critical thinker and still be a creationist, if all he ever saw was creationist data. And I've met a number of people who were not creationists, yet were as bad at critical thinking as any creationist ever spawned.

    I don't see why a college or university should be obliged to accept a creationist biology course as a legitimate science course.

    I agree. OTOH, I also don't see any reason why a university or college should automatically deny that a creationist biology course is a science course. If it doesn't teach accurate facts and science-the-process, then it isn't a science course. If it teaches the facts and the process accurately, then it is.

    Mind you, I can't offhand come up with a scenario where a creationism course qualifies as science, which itself tells me that it's pretty damned unlikely. But I'm not quite willing to say it's impossible.

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  4. I also like the idea of instead of being kept out of college completely, requiring them to take extra intro courses in biology/evolution. I only think this because college is so incredibly important and this will give them the best opportunity they'll probably ever have to see for themselves why their beliefs are ufounded and wrong. Imagine having professors that specialize in converting students from irrational thought to rational thought in this context. That might be fun.

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  5. I had a friend in college that hand't taken any foreign language in high school. As part of his acceptance into college he was required to take and pass two semesters of a foreign language during his first year, even if his major didn't require it.

    I can see Creationist Science fitting in the same scenario. If the pending student did not take a qualified biology class, then as requirement of acceptance he/she must take and pass a qualifying biology class within a certain timeframe.

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  6. There is something seriously incompatible with science with the likes of winners of the 2001 Fellowship Baptist Science Creation Fair,

    Objectiveministries.org is a parody site. Check the merchandise links, or the "Anti-Triclavianist" materials. The creator(s) are really good at walking right up to the line of believability.

    It's also been noted for years and years on the talk.origins that it's nearly impossible to parody creationists. No matter how insane you try to sound, some creationist will pop up who is honestly and actually worse.

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  7. "I don't think they should be kept out of college, quite frankly, if only because it's a risky place for uncritical thinking to continue."

    They should be required to either pass an entrance exam or take remedial coursework at unsubsidized (e.g. out-of-state) tuition rates.  Why should the taxpayer have to foot the bill for repairing the damage?  Let the fanatics see how much it costs up front, and give them some heat on the issue from the non-fanatics who'd rather use their money for better things.

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  8. That's right. Objective Ministries is a parody site. Here's a real creation science fair site.

    You can tell the difference because the parody site actually has some competent design and style to it.

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  9. jackd - *laugh* Ouch! I am admittedly embarrassed over my source material there ;) I have got to keep myself up to date on spoofs. Landover Baptist was the last one I saw, but it is to my recollection less subtle :)

    Given Greg hanging around here, I could have instead cribbed from his canonical post on the Home Schooling Creationist Fair, but I was looking for a non home-schooling equivalent (which discounts the Twin Cities Home School Fair out as well), not in the least because I'm sure Greg doesn't want another giant home-schooling thread following him around (*grin*), but because these are Christian high schools involved in the suit.

    A closer one, which has entries from academies, would be the Creation Discovery Project, though it seems to be on a 9-year-plus hiatus and gives little more than the titles. (I'm embarrassed that it was in my country, though you can't really apologize for everyone ;)

    Does anyone know what the "two popular Christian biology textbooks" that are being referred to as inadequate are? Of Pandas and People was virtually itself on trial at Kitzmiller - I'd like to find out what else is out there being pushed as biology, and how far off the beaten track they are.

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  10. The question isn't whether they should be admitted to some state college, but whether they should be admitted to one of the nine University of California campuses. There are more qualified students than places, so students needing remedial courses generally need to go somewhere else.

    Ford Denison
    This Week in Evolution

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  11. Admit them, get them into fraternities, and teach them to drink.
    In 2 schools where I was a teaching assistant, I saw many students who had poor science backgrounds and abilities, and I don't think that Creationism had anything to do with it--they were simply very poorly prepared.

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  12. It should be noted that the biology class in question was rejected for certification because the textbook used was the abominable Bob Jones biology book. There are three basic requirements that all science classes were required to meet to be considered. One of these three was that science must be taught as an objective endeavor. The Bob Jones book taught that science must be subject to biblical interpretation. The book was clearly in violation of the standard on that point alone. In addition, it contains many errors of fact.

    Also, a student taking this class would not be barred from applying. It merely means that it doesn't count as one of the 15 classes students are required to take for the normal method of applying - that is about 50-60% of the classes a normal high school student would take.

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  13. They don't know anything about evolution before college?

    No big deal.

    Hey, people get into college these days who can't even read, write or do simple math.

    Furthermore, I think asking them to have "critical thinking skills" before college is a bit much, don't you?

    After all, most people don't even have those after they graduate with a 4-year degree (sometimes not even after an advanced degree).

    So, hey, open the corral and let 'em all in.

    Let them major in political science, communications, business or other fluff.

    Haven't you heard?

    Colleges are not meant to ensure that people actually learn, or that they possess the skills to actually do something after graduating.

    They are meant to ensure that they can do a job at the White House (of one type or another).

    Get along, little doggies.

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  14. "the textbook used was the abominable Bob Jones biology book"

    Is that about the Abominable Snowjob by any chance?

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  15. Greg Laden said: "And, if you don't accept this position, my new friends Matt and Chris will come over to your site an make you APOLOGIZE.'

    Will they make me get down on my knees?

    That's the primary reason why I left the Catholic Church and became an atheist.

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  16. "Will they make me get down on my knees?"

    No, but they might make you eat your straw men.

    Sheesh, I had been thinking about apologizing to Greg Laden for saying that he was willfully misinterpreting Mooney and Nisbet. I'm glad I didn't.

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  17. JJ Ramsey said: "No, but they might make you eat your straw men."

    I believe the accurate way to put that is "they might make you eat their straw men."

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  18. "I believe the accurate way to put that is 'they might make you eat their straw men.'"

    No, I said exactly what I wanted to say.

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  19. "No, I said exactly what I wanted to say."

    I didn't claim "their strawmen" was what you meant to say.

    I said it was "the accurate way to put it", which it is.

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  20. Non-science students with creationist backgrounds do struggle in state or other non-religious schools. A friend who teaches a California State University "general education" course on prehistoric life gets lots of non-science students looking for a class without much math to fulfill a science requirement, and every semester about 10-15% are admitted creationists. My friend observes that many "creationists", being gently forced to think about scientific evidence for the first time, start to "get it". Others fight to preserve their creationist outlook, and my friend is sorry to watch the struggle.

    He's clear to say that he doesn't care if students believe what he's teaching, as long as they learn it. There are very few creationist students who can manage to learn the material well. There are limits to cognitive dissonance, I suppose.

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