If the retrograde movement over the past quarter century of American cinema as well as the New York Mets gives the lie to A Theory of Progress then the news that a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania court, nearly 80 years after the Scopes “Monkey” Trial is entertaining a case involving the teaching of evolution can be a potent argument against belief in an intelligent entity in the educational universe having had any hand in the design of the brains of members of the Dover Pennsylvania School Board who insist science teachers present the supernatural dogma of intelligent design as a valid, scientifically based alternative to the theory of evolution. (Lest some bloggers say it’s equally an argument against progress, I would caution that Mr. Darwin never equated evolution with progress, a fact to which anyone with bad feet, knees or back can attest.)
Lending a certain gravitas to the situation, the man formerly known as The Education President, George W. Bush has weighed in on the side of the Dover School Board and endorsed the teaching of intelligent design. I, along with other informed observers of educational law formulations, can only theorize (not state as a fact) that this stance, combined with his strong advocacy of scientifically-based research, enshrined in the No Child Left Behind legislation as it relates to the reading and math programs that school districts may purchase using federal education funds, is an opening salvo in the fight to incorporate the teaching of intelligent design in a reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind bill. (Speaking of spending federal education dollars, the fact that many of these reading and math programs are the products of Texas-based publishing companies is an indication that Mr. Bush also endorses the scientific concept of symbiosis, although the Dover Pennsylvania School Board members have not yet expressed their position on this equally controversial topic.)
Regarding the reauthorization, however, early indications from Capitol Hill are that Mr. Bush will trade off changes in AYP, SES, SINI, HOUSSE and other initial components of NCLB for a requirement that, in order to show the importance of knowing all about intelligent design, extra federal funds be given to private schools that include discussion of intelligent design in their curriculum. (Smart money is also on a compromise of the provisions of the law that give military recruiters access to names of students. The compromise would give the military recruiters access only to the names of male high school students involved in after-school drama clubs, thereby eliminating the need for costly “don’t ask, don’t tell” discharge proceedings, savings that the feds can use for voucher programs or pass throughs to states to cover the cost of developing tests of intelligent design, in collaboration with Texas-based publishers.)
What is sadly missing in all this discussion is how the actual teaching, that wonderful amalgam of pedagogical and content knowledge, will happen in should intelligent design become the law of the land. I believe that New York City’s public schools, a leader in the management of instruction, may provide an answer, one I will share with you on a future posting.