Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat.
John, Viscount Morley of Blackburn, Voltaire
Recess is in-evolution was almost out. We return to Georgia to see what's happening in its world of lower education and what would have happened were it not for evolution.
When last we visited in 1998 we learned that Atlanta was following the lead of schools in Chicago by eliminating recess from lower schools. The New York Times disclosed that Atlanta, (and many other schools) had eliminated recess in elementary schools, believing that particular interlude in the child's day to be a waste of time, unlike kindergartner Toya Gray who confided to the reporter that: "I'd like to sit on the grass and look for ladybugs." Toya and others like her were saved from such propensities by wiser adults who put an end to them. Now we are told, the end to the end of recess may be in sight, at least in Georgia.
A recent news story discloses that Georgia State University education expert Olga Jarrett has concluded that recess is not a bad thing. She and a bipartisan group of state legislators are planning on introducing a bill in the 2004 session of the state legislature that would require schools to provide students with a minimum of one unstructured 15-minute break each day. If the bill passes, the children will be permitted outdoors at least once each day. That will probably upset those like Benjamin O. Canada, the superintendent of schools in Atlanta who, at the time the elimination of recess was announced explained: "We are intent on improving academic performance. You don't get that by hanging on monkey bars." And that brings us to what was almost the next development in public school education in Georgia.
On January 29 it was reported that in a proposed set of guidelines for middle and high school sciences decision makers had removed the word "evolution" from text books and reduced the emphasis on ideas pertaining to earth's age and the natural selection of species.
Following the report of this change in the curriculum, Georgia's schools superintendent Kathy Cox described the word evolution as "a buzz word that causes a lot of negative reaction." She said that people often associate "evolution" with "that monkeys-to-man sort of thing." To dispel the illusion that intellectually she was just crawling out of a murky swamp, she said the teaching of evolution would be accompanied by teaching "emerging models of change," a concept that challenges Darwin's theory. In texts the word "evolution" has been replaced with "changes over time." "Long history of earth" has been shortened to eliminate the word "long" thus placating those who are reasonably certain that the earth is at most a few thousand years old
Explaining her actions in a news conference on January 30 she said: "This wasn't so much a religion vs. science, politics kind of issue. This was an issue of how do we ensure that our kids are getting a quality science education in every classroom across the state." She said students had to understand that science is constantly changing (unlike, presumably living things) and children should be exposed to all legitimate theories. She said the idea that a higher being had a purposeful design for earth was a scientific theory that could be discussed in classrooms. "That is a scientific theory. Now people say, 'Oh, those folks, they're kook scientists.' But it does have scientists, rather than theologians, talking about other ways we may have come into being. "
Some legislators, scientists and teachers said Ms. Cox was embarrassing the state and would weaken the educational system. Associate Professor David Jackson at the University of Georgia who trains middle school science teachers said one-half of his entering students have little knowledge of evolutionary theory. "I think there's already formal and informal discouragements to teaching evolution in public school." he said. It seemed certain that Ms. Cox's stand would lead to many of the young growing up unaware of their relationship to the monkey.
Then a strange thing happened. Evolution proved its value by working its magic on Ms. Cox. On February 5, Ms. Cox said: "I am here to tell you that I misjudged the situation and I want to apologize for that. . . . [I] will recommend to the teacher teams that the word 'evolution' be put back in the curriculum." Her change of heart is proof, if such was needed that evolution can take place even in the short space of one week. Thanks to the evolution of Ms. Cox, both swinging on monkey bars and studying their namesake will be permitted in the Georgia school system.
Christopher Brauchli is a Boulder lawyer and and writes a weekly column for the Knight Ridder news service. He can be reached at email@example.com