Are North Carolina Schools Going Creationist?

There seems to be a problem in North Carolina. We found this item at the website of WFAE, a National Public Radio station in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their headline is Teachers Fight To Keep Prehistoric Humans In NC Social Studies Curriculum. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Human evolution and prehistoric times would vanish from North Carolina’s social studies curriculum under new proposed standards. But some teachers are fighting to keep the Paleolithic Era alive in classrooms. Kenneth Dailey teaches sixth-grade social studies at Quail Hollow Middle School [link omitted] in south Charlotte. That means he’s responsible for introducing students to a time more than 10,000 years ago, when Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens shared the planet.

Why would the Paleolithic era, i.e., the old stone age, which goes back more than 3 million years, be made to vanish? WFAE says:

Dailey said it’s important for students to think seriously about what we know – and don’t know – about an era that predates civilization. The fact that there are no historic documents to consult makes it a better learning opportunity, he said. “I want them to have access to the scientific, the genetics, the geography, the archeology – I want them to have all of that,” he said.

Sixth grade may be a wee bit early for all of that, but at least it should be mentioned and made available in a course about human history. WFAE tells us:

Dailey says he was shocked when he saw the state’s proposed social studies standards. They call for sixth-grade world history to start with the Neolithic Era – the time when humans had started farming and building civilizations. The Paleolithic Era is just … gone.

Gone? Something’s wrong here. Human history didn’t suddenly start with the Neolithic era — the so-called new stone age — except in Genesis. The news article continues:

In July, the General Assembly ordered the state Board of Education to review and revise [link omitted] its K-12 social studies standards. Lawmakers mandated specific changes in high school, where students will have to pass classes in personal finance and civic literacy to graduate.

The statute doesn’t mention starting history with the neolithic era. Let’s read on:

Evolution can be controversial. [Really?] Some who embrace a biblical account of creation take issue with scientific theories. DPI [the state Department of Public Instruction] hasn’t explained why the Paleolithic Era was eliminated, and the official in charge of the review didn’t answer when WFAE asked for an explanation.

Do you suspect, dear reader, that Oogity Boogity may be involved here? Another excerpt:

Dailey said it makes no sense to just skip prehistory. [Unless you think the world is only 6,000 years old.] “If we did just start with ‘Here’s a civilization,’ I mean, almost inevitably the kids are going to say, ‘What’s going on before that?'” he said. “They always ask for the evidence.”

So, he said he did what he’s always telling his kids to do: He mustered his evidence and wrote an essay, which he sent to state officials and the local school board. “The new standards as written represent a bias, intentional or otherwise, away from science and remove a valid and evidence-driven explanation for early modern man’s development of both self and civilization,” he wrote.

Dailey’s a good man, and he may have trouble over this. Here’s more:

A statewide teachers’ group called Red4EdNC [link omitted] reviewed the standards and came to a similar conclusion. The group’s analysis [link omitted] says the new standards would deprive North Carolina children of important theories about the origin of humanity. “We cannot understand modern humans and their behavior without understanding tribal humans and their culture,” the analysis says.

Dailey’s not alone in this. That’s good. And now we come to the end:

Lori Major Carlin, the state education official in charge of the social studies curriculum, says her team plans to address the Paleolithic Age in the next draft of the standards. The state will take public comments [link omitted] on the first draft through Feb. 15. The second draft should go public sometime in March. Dailey will be waiting eagerly. He said he doesn’t care so much about telling his students what to think about the birth of humanity … but he does want to teach them how to think about it.

At this point, nobody seems to know what’s going on, but something is obviously wrong in North Carolina. Maybe they’ll get it cleared up. We’ll be watching.

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17 responses to “Are North Carolina Schools Going Creationist?

  1. Michael Fugate

    I always wonder what they think these things will accomplish other than virtue signalling. Kansas is now thinking of requiring “In God We Trust” in all public school classrooms. Has having a US flag in every classroom made students more patriotic? As one Republican in Kansas points out “E Pluribus Unum” makes much more sense.

  2. Why have you omitted the Red4EdNC links?

  3. Too much work. But I did notify you that the article had those links.

  4. Ok then. I was wondering if it was deliberate.

  5. Dave Luckett

    To speak strictly, with the Neolithic and earlier epochs, we are dealing with prehistory, not history. History begins with records of events, and records generally begin with writing. Preliterate human societies can only be known through the writings of others about them (always dicey), or, failing that, through material culture – ie, archaeology. There may be a case for studying human history rather than archaeology in grade school. I mean, teachers have more than enough to do as it is.

    But indeed, why would the state education system require that prehistory begin with the Neolithic, unless it was to avoid minor unpleasantness in the classroom or at PTA (or equivalent) meetings? That is, as always, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If a study of human origins is considered necessary – and I think it should be, because “where did we come from?” is a question that should be answered as far as possible – then we have to go back before even the Paleolithic, to paleoanthropology, including the known hominins from which modern humans emerged, and their parallel species. Now, wouldn’t that be delightful?

  6. The Neolithic Revolution in the Ancient Near East is often dated at about 10,000 years before the present. That is rather stretching the limits of Young Earth Cteationism, isn’t it? Particularly
    If there is no mention of the Flood.
    Maybe this is just a case of carelessness?

  7. @DaveL: “To speak strictly, with the Neolithic and earlier epochs, we are dealing with prehistory, not history.”
    That’s mere semantics. Yours is a good and common definition but certainly not the only one that makes sense. One problem with yours is that for instance Ancient Egyptian culture before 1822 belonged to prehistory and after history, which is kind of silly.
    Another definition: history begins with the arrival of Homo Sapiens. This definition, apparently used by Dailey, suffers from a similar problem.
    But perhaps questioning categories is too extreme for your taste?

  8. Red4EdNC states:

    “We cannot understand modern humans and their behavior without understanding tribal humans and their culture”

    Indeed! We remain, alas, incorrigibly tribal, a fact particularly manifest today (Brexit Day) when the UK formerly relinquishes its place at the top table in the EU in order to…in order to something, but quite what won’t be known for another 11 months. But no one can deny we will have a true tribal identity!

    There is so much to look forward to! That wise and charming Mr. Trump assures us a brilliant trade deal with the USA awaits us–though we’re really going to have to dump dealing with Huawei if we know what’s good for us. But surely, the UK is in a much stronger negotiating position on its own as a country of 66 million rather than as a member of a trading block of 512 million.

    And, finally freed from the tyrannical yoke of the ECJ, we can take back control of those areas which we previously thought were better addressed internationally: yes, we can finally start getting rid of those pesky environmental protection and public health standards! It’s truly thrilling to think we will soon be free to dump industrial effluvent into the North Sea and even bring back smoking in offices and pubs if we so wish! Not that we’re planning on doing those particular things, but the point is, we could without some silly Johnny Foreigner telling us we can’t! That alone has got to be worth the £130 billion (a sum greater than the cost of 47 years of membership) that Brexit has cost so far!

    So let’s join E.M.Forster in a rousing Two Cheers for democracy as we vacate our elected seats in the European Parliament and return to our role as spectators of the antics of the unelected House of Lords! As for the Commons, where there is no effective party of oppostion, we have a government headed by a PM whose attempt to prorogue Parliament in order to force through Brexit was overturned by our own Supreme Court (earning the Justices who made that ruling screaming headlines in the tabloids as ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE!).

    There are some risks, however. We must keep a vigilant look-out on the Kentish coast for any approach of an invading EU Armada! That’s an especially worrying prospect: so secretive and elusive are the EU Armed Forces, no one has ever seen them or been able to count them!

    And there will be other costs. The Scots and the Northern Irish just aren’t feeling the democratic love as they are dragged out of the EU against their wishes–to say nothing of their 2-to1 votes to Remain–but hey, who really cares about the Celts if they don’t accept English supremecy? A stupendous catalogue of Big Lies ensured that Our Tribe won, so just suck it up, losers!

    And let’s not forget one of the biggest benefits from Brexit: from 1 January 2021, visiting Australians will not have to endure the agony of witnessing Germans and Italians getting preferential treatment at the UK Border! They will all be mashed together in the same slow-moving queue to face the same charmless UK Border Force officials whose job it is to fully question everyone who is not of our Tribe.

    O brave new world, that keeps such people out of it!

  9. Alas, my avatar–updated in honour of the day–is rather indistinct when so reduced in size. Here’s the full version: Brussels’ Manneken Pis dressed in Union Jack waistcoat ahead of Brexit 🙂

  10. “the same charmless UK Border Force officials”
    Ah – nothing has changed in this respect since I visited the country (twice) 30+ years ago?
    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to say “Cheers!” with DaveL. He can dream on about reliving a glorious past, I’m happy to be released of a nuisance. Let Bojo the Clown and co boil in their own gravy until well cooked!
    At the same time I’ll keep on supporting Brexit refugees – a British passport plus a lease or purchase contract for a house must be enough for a permit to stay, which after five (better: three) years automatically can be interchanged for naturalization. No nonsense like citizenship courses; my native country has a centuries old tradition of multiculturalism. Anyone fleeing from the country that produced Monty Python, Absolutely Fabulous and Keeping up Appearances immediately should qualify. Plus Dutch comedy can use a boost (the Netherlands also received one in the 1930’s from German comedians).
    Yup, I’m rather content with my brand of extremism.

  11. Two examples of English-Dutch multiculturalism:

    The brilliantly and hilariously cynical series In Voor- en in Tegenspoed is an adaptation from In Sickness and in Health and the more friendly Het Zonnetje in Huis from Tom, Dick and Harriet. I’ve never seen the English originals.

  12. Dave Luckett

    FrankB, Fields of study begin to exist when their essential data becomes available for study, not when the objects of study begin to exist. Light existed long before optics; bacteria long before microbiology. Until 1822, there was hardly any such thing as ancient Egyptian history. It began to exist when Champollion found a way to read the records, thus making the data available. So ancient Egypt was (almost entirely) prehistorical until then, and historical after its records were read. Why is this a problem?

  13. Because it’s a small step from “scientists can’t study it” to “scientists don’t study it”. Historians don’t study prehistory. It accepts a break that isn’t there and only exists in our minds. Modern historical research recognizes that continuity plays a much bigger role than sudden, abrupt changes like the first written texts. The distinction stimulates historians to neglect everything that happened before. That’s a serious flaw.
    Of course the correct answer is “recognizing the problem is solving it”. Distinguishing history from prehistory is just one way of categorizing, not better or worse than several others. And we do need categories. As long as is clear what we’re talking about (plus a few more demands) it’s totally OK.
    But I also think Dailey has some good reasons to use a broader definition of history. Personally, being the nasty guy I am and enjoying to ennoy the heck out of Ol’Hambo and co prefer to understand history as everything that happened beginning with the Big Bang.
    For western culture this means that Antiquity begins with the first written texts. Depending on the cultures before Antiquity came either the Bronze Age or an Iron Age, but overlap is possible. So I don’t use “prehistory” at all, but again, that shouldn’t bother anyone.

  14. What about the things that happened during historical times which are not covered by written records? There is a continuity of subject, with no reason to mark a distinction.
    I don’t know anything about mesoamrica. Does the appearance of writing mark the beginning of history?

  15. As I understand it, we say that the history of the region began when we first have written records about it, whether written by the population themselves or by outsiders. The difference between history and prehistory, then, is simply a matter of the available methods of study, rather than a qualitative change in the subject matter. To be fair to North Carolina, it might make sense to have the study of civics begin with a study of the earliest cities or governments.

  16. “we say that ….”
    Depends on who are “we”.

  17. TomS “Does the appearance of writing mark the beginning of history?”

    As a first approximation, yes. Of course the writing must be read. A number of civilizations had writing systems that have not been deciphered – Crete, Mohenjo-Daro, and several of the Mesoamerican ones, of which the Maya was one until it was deciphered in the 1950’s, and there are undoubtedly others of which I am ignorant. Without written records, history, as such, may exist, but it remains unknown and beyond the reach of study.

    There may be means of inferring events without writing. The sudden appearance of a different and foreign style of material artefact, if it can be securely dated, would imply contact with the external culture concerned. But what kind of contact? How did it happen? Was there a new trade route or a diplomatic mission or a military expedition or religious missionaries or something else? Greek-style statuary turns up in India from the second century BCE, often as Buddhist religious art. Are we talking about diffused cultural contacts, or actual persons who immigrated? There are some written records, but not enough to say.

    Yet it is those questions which are the substance of history. An actual account of the events must be constructed, with the classic specifications: what happened, in what order, to whom, where, when and why. To answer those questions, written records are needed. Of course the records need not be written to be histories themselves. Usually it is better if they are not.

    But here we depart into the wilds of historiography, from which bourn few return unmarked..