No sex please .... we're American
PHOENIX -- A Senate committee voted Wednesday to let university and community-college students opt out of required reading assignments they consider personally offensive or pornographic. (Arizona Star, Feb. 16)This particular misguided committee on higher education acted in response to one student's complaints that "A lot of students are being forced to choose between their personal or religious beliefs and the demands of education."
Imagine that. Reading material that challenges students. Whatever is this world coming to?
It looks like Muslims aren't the only ones who can't handle a little satire. In Arizona, though, the problem isn't cartoons, but curricula. Apparently it's really all about a little book called The Ice Storm, which is a satirical take on, among other things, wife-swapping against the backdrop of the political turmoil of the Watergate years.
Next thing you know, parents will be pulling their kids out of science classes that dare to suggest humans descended from apes. What's that? Oh, right.
On that note, this week's editorial from Science magazine, on the need to ensure the medical profession has a good grasp of evolutionary theory, is apropos. It's subscription-only, so here's a couple of excerpts:
Although anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and embryology are recognized as basic sciences for medicine, evolutionary biology is not.... In a whole array of clinical and basic science challenges, evolutionary biology is turning out to be crucial. For example, the evolution of antibiotic resistance is widely recognized, but few appreciate how competition among bacteria has shaped chemical weapons and resistance factors in an arms race that has been going on for hundreds of millions of years....The fact that evolution isn't already included in every relevant high school, undergraduate, and graduate course is testament to the sorry state of affairs that passes for education in America. Let's hope Arizona doesn't make things worse. Image the problems in biology class if a proposed bill that would require "universities and community colleges to provide a student with alternative coursework if the student deems regular coursework to be personally offensive" is passed.
What actions would bring the full power of evolutionary biology to bear on human disease? We suggest three. First, include questions about evolution in medical licensing examinations; this will motivate curriculum committees to incorporate relevant basic science education. Second, ensure evolutionary expertise in agencies that fund biomedical research. Third, incorporate evolution into every relevant high school, undergraduate, and graduate course.
Wake up, Arizona. Get with the program.