Yeah, Teach the Evolution Controversy, but Not on My Campus, Buster
In one enigma -- among the various outrages and ironies -- of the Ben Carson episode at Emory University, there's this. Of the four Emory professors who first raised the alarm over Dr. Carson's views on evolution, one is actually a supporter of a "teach the controversy" approach to science and evolution pedagogy in schools.
Back in December, ENV's Casey Luskin commented on a CNN op-ed by Arri Eisen, professor of pedagogy at Emory's Center for Ethics, Department of Biology ("Emory University Professor of Pedagogy Endorses Teaching the Evolution Controversy"). Eisen's whole speciality involves how to teach about biology. He wrote:
High school educators in Wisconsin showed that students who read original texts from Darwin and intelligent-design scholars, and discussing those texts, critically learned evolution better (without rejection of other worldviews) than those taught it in the traditional didactic manner. Teaching potentially controversial science can work if done in an interactive, engaging fashion and in a rich historical and societal context.To which Casey replied:
This is what we have been saying for years. In fact, the big secret of the debate over teaching evolution is that leading science education authorities agree that students learn the science best when they learn about scientific disagreements and are allowed to study scientific topics through critical analysis. Many other science education authorities agree.Has Eisen done an about-face? What's up with that? Professor Eisen couldn't stomach Dr. Carson's giving a Commencement speech (that wasn't about evolution) without also pointing out how Carson's opinion, expressed in a 2004 interview, violated "Emory's ideals." The letter created a fuss that led to Emory's instituting a new screening step to keep from inviting any more free-thinkers to speak at Commencement or receive honorary degrees.
Yet the same Arri Eisen thinks -- or used to think as of last year -- that
Clearly, there are a multitude of reasons for America's polarized politics and decreasing science literacy and innovation that go beyond just teaching science better. But sometimes a little creative wrestling with and engagement in systems and programs that already exist can make a difference.So exposing high-schoolers to alternative viewpoints is good for education, but exposing college grads to a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon who once expressed a heretical opinion on evolution is a big problem worthy of many grave concerns? Did Arri Eisen change his mind in half a year? If so, why?
Working on a campus so finely attuned to heresy, maybe he was concerned about what might happen if his own background came to be checked.