Plan to add teaching of Holocaust, genocide to science education draws questions – DNyuz

Plan to add teaching of Holocaust, genocide to science education draws questions

AUGUSTA, Maine — Teachers and science advocates are voicing skepticism about a Maine proposal to update standards to incorporate teaching about genocide, eugenics and the Holocaust into middle school science education. They argue that teachers need more training before introducing such subjects that are both sensitive and nuanced.

While critics of the proposed updates said they are borne of good intentions — the proposal states that science has “sometimes been used by those in power to oppress and abuse others” — they also said that injecting the materials into a middle school science curriculum could distract from conventional scientific principles and could jeopardize science education.

The proposal states that science education in the state should reflect that “misinterpretation of fossil observations has led to the false idea of human hierarchies and racial inequality.” The proposal also states that “historically, some people have misused and/or applied the ideas of natural selection and artificial selection to justify genocide of various groups, such as Albinos in Africa or Jews in Europe.”

The proposed updates have drawn the attention of teachers’ groups in the state as well as national organizations that advocate for a better understanding of science. In contrast, the concern of the Democrat controlled Maine is different from conflicts in other conservative states where critics have focused their criticism on climate change education, U.S. History and evolution.

The Maine Science Teachers Association told the state in a testimony that adding proposed content without professional teacher training could harm science education. The updates, which are geared toward middle schoolers, could also make it harder for young minds to absorb the more basic science concepts they are encountering for the first time, said Tonya Prentice, president of the Maine Science Teachers Association.

“As far as critical thinking skills, middle school students are still developing those, and that’s just putting it at a level that is fundamentally higher than we should expect them to handle,” Prentice said. “That’s a lot for adults to take in.”

Others said they felt the state is well-intentioned to try to incorporate social history into science education, but agreed Maine needs to first ensure that its teachers are equipped to do it. Scientists’ contributions to theories such as eugenics should be taught in science classes, according to Joseph Graves Jr. a biology professor who sits on the National Center for Science Education board, along with hundreds of other teachers.

“The real question is: Should these things be taught in science classes? Graves Jr. replied, “My answer is yes.” “But it comes down to when to do that and whether the people doing it are doing it in a way that is knowledgeable and pedagogically sound.”

The Maine Department of Education is performing the update, which is part of a review of standards that is required every five years. A committee in the Maine Legislature would ultimately have to approve any proposed changes.

The Maine Department of Education took public comments about the proposal until the middle of November and the next step is for the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee to make a determination about the standards, said Marcus Mrowka, a spokesperson for the education department. Mrowka explained that the updates were the result of the new legislative requirements to incorporate certain types of education in the curriculum. Mrowka stated that schools are required to incorporate content on Native American, African American, and genocide history, such as the Holocaust. Mrowka explained that the updated standards do not represent a revision, but are merely a new section of explanations to give educators more contexts to use to promote critical thinking.

The recommended updates, which are now up for adoption, were created by teachers. Mrowka explained that the Education Department opened the revision process up to all science teachers interested in participating. Mrowka stated that a group of twenty Maine science educators gathered several times during the summer months to review the standards.

The teachers also worked with scholars and experts to include the additional content areas that the Legislature required, Mrowka said.

“The educators included a section of further explanation to give educators additional contexts, and to offer opportunities for critical thinking to incorporate the added content that was required by the Legislature,” Mrowka stated.

Earlier in the school year, the state asked for public feedback on the science standards. Educators expressed their concern about challenging students. Robert Ripley testified that middle schoolers could grapple “rigorous, relevant learning” for the modern world.

” “We want to prepare our students for the unknown world of the future, so they must have the necessary skills,” Ripley said.

Alison Miller, a professor from Bowdoin College and member of the State Steering Committee for Science Standards, has called the changes “misguided”. She said that the topics such as genocide, scientific racism, etc. were crammed into the new standards.

“This is not a shoehorn-able subject,” Miller said. “This is about context and nuance, and asking teachers to do it without the context and nuance that it takes to take on a subject so large and so important is asking them to do it superficially or not at all.”

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