The Kids Don't Stand A Chance
One time I was exploring the inside of Morgan public high school. There was this display case at the end of a hall-one of those attempts made by the administration to create an enriched learning environment. Inside it was a kind of biology themed presentation meant to generally represent the people making up the biology department at Morgan, and the biology-related curriculum taught at Morgan. My friend, Tim, walked up to what I was looking at and said, "If Mr. Hentschel saw this, he would weep." Inside the display case was the heading: Potential Future Species. Underneath that heading was multiple different drawings done by multiple different students depicting what the titles referred to as, "Penguin-zebra," "Jellyfish-eagle," and, "Kitty-lizard." I imagine some student teacher assigning this project, shouting over the voices of some thirty-odd high school students who had never learned to care about biology. Surely, the pictures that were selected for the display were the ones that were drawn by kids who were trying to make their friends laugh. Surely, there was a group of boys, the athletic ones, who were trying to make their friends laugh by how much their drawing skills sucked, that is, if there cared enough to do the assignment at all.
The fact is, if those kids had been in Mr. Hentschel's biology class at Judge, they would have realized that their understanding of biology was fundamentally flawed. I'm not trying to say that Judge is better than Morgan in any way. I am only pointing out the polite horror that, presumably due to the Utah State legislature's apparent and callous disregard for education, high school students are being taught concepts that undermine and invalidate all of the students' other understandings about biology. This is not being nit-picky. If a student is taught that a new species originates from two different species like a penguin and a zebra mating, thus creating a new species, the penguin-zebra, then that student's basic understanding of evolution, the most fundamental underpinning of the study of biology, is wrong.
Earlier today, which is a Sunday, I went to an AP Bio lab. In terms of students' understanding of biology, I am towards the low end of the bell curve of students in that class. AP Bio is ridiculously hard, and I am falling behind because I wasn't paying attention consistently enough over the past few weeks. Thinking back on when I was exploring the halls of Morgan, how could those kids stand a chance in AP Bio-the class that has to have classes on Sunday because there is not enough class time? Unless they had a teacher like Mr. Hentschel, which they don't, who had enough time to completely re-vamp thirty kids worth of poor study habits and false understanding, which he doesn't, then the answer is that they wouldn't. Actually, the more correct answer to that question is that they don't.