Evolution Revisited

Darwinian man, though well-behaved,
At best is only a monkey shaved.
-- William Gilbert, Princess Ida

Darwinian man, though well-behaved,
At best is only a monkey shaved.
-- William Gilbert, Princess Ida

is with as much embarrassment as pundits are able to muster that I am
forced to acknowledge that the Texas Board of Education may now
consider itself vindicated by none other than some school
administrators in a town in what is one of the more enlightened (but
for its choice of Senator) states in the country. It was but a few
weeks ago that this writer mocked
Texas for having adopted standards for its science textbooks that
contradicted any notion that evolution had affected the board's

Confronted by evolution and global warming the
Texas board insisted that its textbooks examine "all sides of
scientific evidence" which includes the notion that the earth is but
6000 years old, give or take a couple hundred. The Discovery Institute
that doesn't discover contemporary truths, trumpeted what it called a
"huge victory for those who favor teaching the scientific evidence for
and against evolution." Dr. Don McLeroy, a dentist and probably a very
good one, who headed the Texas Board of Education at the time of this
triumph of rhyme over reason described the decision as winning "the
Grand Slam and the Super Bowl." Not content with such hyperbole he went
on to say that: "Our science standards are light years ahead of any
other state when it comes to challenging evolution." The school
administrators responsible for the Weston Intermediate School, though
probably not sympathetic with the successes of the Texas board, have
shown that they are sensitive to the feelings of those who are troubled
by the thought that they have evolved from forms they find not pleasing
to contemplate. Our teacher about evolutionary matters in the Weston
Connecticut school district is Mark Tangarone, a teacher in the
Talented and Gifted Program (TAG). .

Mr. Tangarone has been
a teacher in the Weston school system for the last 17 years. His last
day of teaching in the district will take place on the last day of the
current school year. Mr. Tangarone is leaving because of evolution. His
problems with the concept began in 2008.

In 2008 he created
a program around the fact that Lincoln and Darwin were born on the same
day in the same year. A part of the program dealt with Darwin's journey
to Australia and Asia and included a discussion about evolution. Mr.
Tangarone submitted an outline of the program to Dr. Mark Ribbens who
was then the school's principal. Dr. Ribbens rejected the proposed
program because of its discussion of evolution. In an e-mail,
a medium that is an obvious result of evolution, Dr. Ribbens way gave
evolution credit for being a "robust scientific theory" that
nonetheless provided a philosophically unsatisfactory explanation for
the diversity of life." He went on to explain that evolution "touches
on a core belief-Do we share common ancestry with other living
organisms? What does it mean to be a human being. . . . I know
personally that I would be challenged in leading a 10-year old through
this sort of discussion while maintaining the appropriate sensitivity
to a family's religious beliefs or traditions." Dr. Ribbens concluded
by saying evolution was not age appropriate for Mr. Tangarone's
students and said "TAG topics need to be altered this year to eliminate
the teaching of Darwin's work and the theory of evolution." Defending
Dr. Ribbens, John Drummond and Carolyn Vinton, the Weston curriculum
instructional leaders, said that the schools address evolution in what
they call a "developmentally appropriate manner". The lessons are
taught in kindergarten and grades 3, 8 9 and 10, as the students
themselves are evolving.

Mr. Tangarone appealed Dr. Ribbens'
decision to the Assistant Superintendent, Tom Scarice who rejected the
appeal. On February 12, 2010, Mr. Tangarone sent a letter to the school
board announcing his retirement because of the censorship of his
proposed program. Jerry Belaire, the school superintendent, said that
the dispute had nothing to do with teaching evolution but said the 17
year veteran teacher was a disgruntled teacher who did not like being
supervised and had been disciplined for attendance issues and
insubordinate conduct, charges denied by Mr. Tangarone.

Weston parents, having evolved more than the members of the
administration, have expressed concern and the school board has vowed
to examine the circumstances surrounding the resignation. Dr. Ritter,
meanwhile, has apologized for his e-mail to Mr. Tangarone saying: "Some
of the things I said were written in the heat of the moment and could
be wrong. If so, shame on me." To that one can only add shame on the
administration that attempted to cover up a patently absurd decision by
attempting to impugn the integrity of Mr. Tangarone. As the president
of the school board said, speaking of Mr. Taggarone: "On a personal
note, both of my children were fortunate to have Mark, and this is a
real loss for our system." That observation suggests that Weston may
yet prove itself different from, and further evolved than, Texas.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.