School Board Madness in Maryland

One might expect The Controversy between evolution and creationism to bypass a seemingly peaceful place like Wicomico County, Maryland, but that would be an error. Let today’s news be a lesson to you, dear reader — America is the land of opportunity for fools, retardates, ignoramuses, and maniacs. Such people are frequently elected to public office, and that means the madness of creationism can strike anywhere!

In one of the Gannett newspapers hosted at delmarvanow.com, possibly the Daily Times of Salisbury, Maryland, we read Good In Theory?, subtitled: “A proposed textbook in Wicomico County referencing the theory of evolution has resparked the long debate.” Oh, goodie — another school board is going insane over evolution! Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

“Teachers teach the evidence that science supports, whether there are those who believe otherwise,” says Starlin Weaver, associate dean in the Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies and a science educator at Salisbury University. “A theory is a theory until it is supported by evidence. We’re not in schools to teach theory as fact.”

Aaaargh!! With people like that running a university-level training program for teachers, it’s no wonder we have the chaos we routinely observe in public schools. But that was only the introduction. Stay with us, it gets better:

A round Earth was once a theory, until scientific measurement and observation proved it to be a fact. And that theory was very much resisted half a millennium ago.

*Groan* In science, facts don’t start out as theories, and theories don’t grow up to be facts — but sometimes the two are intermingled. We’re not in the mood to expound on that yet again, but we recommend Evolution as Fact and Theory, by Stephen Jay Gould. Let’s read on:

Today, in Wicomico County schools, there is a kerfuffle about another scientific theory — evolution. It’s resisted in some religious circles, but does it matter how it’s mentioned in a public school history textbook?

Ron Willey, the president of the Wicomico County School Board, prompted just that question during a review of a textbook titled “Ways of the World: A Brief Global History with Sources.”

We scrambled around to find the school board’s website where they have a page for Mr. Ron Willey, Board President. There we learn that this guardian of the future is a retired elementary school teacher and principal. One can’t get more qualified than that to decide what’s science and what’s not. Okay, what was it, specifically, that troubled this splendid public servant? The news story continues:

The discussion focused on a Page 3 sentence regarding Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which reads: “Ever since Charles Darwin, most scholars have come to view human beginnings in the context of biological change on the planet.”

“I have a problem with the statement on Page 3,” Willey told the board at the June 11 school board meeting. “It is a matter of fact versus theory. That one statement does continue to give me real pain.”

Mr. Willey has a problem with that statement? That statement? Well, your Curmudgeon has a problem with Mr. Willey — we think he’s a flaming idiot! Here’s more:

After a review of the public critiques, the school board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to accept the textbook for Advanced Placement World History for 11th or 12th grades.

We always like it when school boards vote on what’s reality and what’s not. Verily, it’s democracy in action. Moving along:

Willey made his position clear in an interview after the meeting. “ ‘Most scholars’ is the concern I voiced,” he said, referring to a phrase in a sentence on the page. “Many will read that as truth and not theory. ‘Some’ scholars agree, it should have said, but it says ‘most.’ It is not a point of what is taught in the classroom, but to proclaim theory as fact, I have a problem with that.

What do you think, dear reader — could it be that this guy is a creationist wacko? It seems like a good possibility to us. Another excerpt:

Hogwash on two fronts, responds SU associate dean Weaver. First of all, most scientists do believe the statement on Page 3, she said. “Most scientists do believe that evolution is theory supported by lots of evidence,” Weaver said. Evidence scientists collected is supported by more than 90 percent of scientists, she said.

Hey — someone in Maryland is sane. That’s comforting. But the news story quotes others too. For example:

The Rev. Dr. M. Luther Hill, president of the Wicomico County Ministerial Alliance, offers a theological view.

[...]

Says Hill: “People say we came from apes; I don’t believe we came from apes. Adam named the animals, so how could that have been if Adam was an animal? I don’t think that gives the theory a leg up.”

We haven’t seen that argument before, so we’ll give the rev credit for originality.

We’re just about halfway through the article, but after you’ve seen enough of these things you notice that they all follow the same formula: journalist quotes crazy person, journalist quotes sane person, then another crazy person, etc., and then — after both sides are presented equally — it’s all left up in the air. No position is taken because journalists (even if they know something) aren’t supposed to express opinions in news stories.

If you care about this particular school board, then click over there and read the whole thing. Otherwise, why bother? It’s the same sad tale we’ve seen played out in so many other places.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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14 responses to “School Board Madness in Maryland

  1. Has anyone who is not deeply invested in a religion made a case for ID? I think not. Doesn’t anyone else recognize this? The word “believe” doesn’t belong in a scientific discussion. Sheesh!

  2. Ceteris Paribus

    In the lead sentence, Deborah Gates, the paper’s writer offers says: “SALISBURY — Most people know Earth is round, or at least spherical. Science says so.[emphasis added]”

    Then Gates goes on to demonstrate the dismal quality of her journalism education by explaining, unhelpfully, to her readers” “A round Earth was once a theory, until scientific measurement and observation proved it to be a fact. ”

    Note to Deborah Gates: Those coin-looking metal thingies that people put in Salisbury newspaper boxes every day to buy your paper, and keep you employed? Well, those coins are examples of what is called “round”. If coins were “spherical”, or to use your own phrase “at least spherical”, they would be the same shape as the Earth, and wouldn’t fit in the coin slot. And you would be unemployed and not bothering people.

  3. GAAAAH! Salisbury is about an hour and a half away (just a quick hop over the Bay Bridge). I’d drop in on Tuesday night, but alas I won’t have time. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this group.
    Understand that Wicomico is a small sliver of what is known in these parts as “The Eastern Shore”. Those folks tend to be more religious and more prone to backwards (as in “way back in time”) thinking than the rest of Maryland. You don’t tend to find similar thinking until you get into the western end of the state, especially in the area of Cumberland, which has brought such joy and merriment to SC’s life.

  4. BTW, the comment that the roundness of the Earth was “very much resisted half a millennium ago”. Just another case of the tall tale about belief in the flat Earth.

  5. “Teachers teach the evidence that science supports, whether there are those who believe otherwise,” says Starlin Weaver, associate dean in the Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies and a science educator at Salisbury University. “A theory is a theory until it is supported by evidence. We’re not in schools to teach theory as fact.”

    Watch for Starlin Weaver to be recruited by Ball State University.

  6. I wonder how they handle the Pythagorean Theorem? It’s “just a theory”, right?

    Things like this do not make me proud to be from Maryland.

  7. Just how prevalent is creationism in America? Being from the UK I have noticed a small but noticeable increase in its mention over and that concerns me, it is a lie a complete fabrication and the very thought of it being taught to kids as fact is just plain scary.

  8. Jim asks: “Just how prevalent is creationism in America?”

    Oh, it’s only about half the population. We’re not embarrassed. Not at all. Here’s a Gallup poll on the subject.

  9. docbill1351

    Hey, we beat Turkey!

    We’re #39! We’re #39!

  10. Thats certainly not going to make me sleep any easier tonight.
    Otherwise a throughly informative and enjoyable blog.

  11. I’ll teach creation in every class in my city for $50K a year plus a car and gas money……Hi kids. “Today’s lesson is God did it. Now use the rest of class on your real work from other classes,I gotta go tell 10 other rooms that God did it too.

  12. Ken says:

    Hi kids. Today’s lesson is God did it. Now use the rest of class on your real work from other classes …”

    That’s very similar to my plan for teaching abstinence.

  13. Of Ken’s lesson plan for Creationism 101, our Curmudgeon notes:

    That’s very similar to my plan for teaching abstinence.

    Indeed, there’s a great opportunity here for a combined syllabus, to wit:

    “God did it–but don’t you.”

  14. Looks like we could carpool…..but to be serious. The attempt is being made to undermine scientific theory being taught,by using laws that say school books must contain factual information. The scientific process,and why it works,could be used against it by the letter of the law. Md, Pa,and Ct are just 3 states close to home for me that have cases pending.