Today, John Timmer posted on the ‘tubes a brief summary of current debates in evolutionary biology, as unfolded at a recent Rockefeller University symposium. Timmer takes the position, and PZ Myers agrees, that these controversies don’t belong in the high-school curriculum. They require too much background knowledge to understand, and if the students haven’t spent time learning the basic principles, they’ll be sunk. On these specific points, I’d tend to agree; however, other debates might provide “teachable moments.” If trying to build lesson plans around the questions currently rocking the symposia is going too far, what about the problems which have been wrapped up in the last ten years or so? For example, in a post-Bullet Cluster world, a high-school physics class could well include some talk of dark matter.
Including such material could, I suspect, have salutary effects. It could make science less a collection of facts to be memorized and “raise consciousness” in the students, helping them see the process of science. Of course, doing this right would not be easy, and we really do have a great many preliminaries to cover!
What, then, might some of these topics be? Which problems which have recently been resolved to general satisfaction could and should be brought into the high-school curriculum, and which currently open quandaries could be presented fairly? Tell us, Gentle Reader, what you think.
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