March 26, 2008

Biology is constructed, but there's only one version of history

Today the Florida Senate PreK-12 committee approved Ronda Storms's bill (SB 2692) that would undercut the new state science standards that include evolution as the basic model of biology. It's called the "Academic Freedom Act," but it only applies to biology teachers who want to teach Intelligent Design (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster theory of creation). If you're a history teacher, you're on your own with a set of rigid legal prescriptions that tell you what history is:

American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed, shall be viewed as knowable, teachable, and testable, and shall be defined as the creation of a new nation based largely on the universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.

So someone who thinks that the Declaration of Independence was undercut by a more conservative Constitution is forbidden from teaching that. Since history is factual, you can't debate arguments about whether the founders were more influenced by their views of Enlightenment debates in Europe, Renaissance political theories, or classical history. And you definitely can't read David W. Noble's Historians against History (1965), which critiques precisely this claim that the history of the U.S. represents an entirely fresh start, a dramatic break from the past.

To mash up W.C. Fields and Elbert Hubbard, biology is a rich stew of diverse views, but history is one damned fact after another.

Listen to this article
Posted in Education policy on March 26, 2008 11:44 PM |