24 May 2006

Arctic Monkeys: Fact or fiction?

The opportunity to discuss "arctic monkeys" -- and attract hits from fans seeking information on the latest Britpop export -- is one I could not pass up. For this I extend my sincere appreciation to Molly Tayara, a member of the Kativik School Board, which oversees elementary and secondary education in Salluit and other Inuit communities in the far northern reaches of Quebec.

The occasion is the continuing controversy over the board's decision to order one of its employees to stop teaching evolution. According to the latest CBC report, more than just the validity of descent through natural selection is under fire:
While saying the board wouldn't censor teachers, a member of the community's school committee told CBC that teachers would be told if they deal in matters sensitive to the community.

"If the town complains and says no, the committee can ask the principal or the director of teachers to approach the teacher and say, 'Look, this is not the subject to be taught here in this town, or in this place, because we know we have been humans from the beginning,'" said Molly Tayara.

"I don't personally accept my children being taught that they came from some species from Africa somewhere.

"Here in the North there is no such thing as monkeys."
As someone who spent five years living in the North, I know Ms. Tayara's views on primate phylogeography are not widely shared. But I'm still waiting for someone in a position of authority up there to denounce the silliness in Salluit.

So far, all we've got is a press release from the board noting that "the Inuit of Nunavik should also have the right to have their views and way-of-life respected by our teachers."
We encourage our students to have an open mind and to think for themselves. We expect our students to develop a respect for other cultures, and to recognize the cultural diversity and the values of other people. Surely we have the right to expect the same of our teachers.
Well, yes, you do.

But how that translates to omitting the central organizing principle of biology from Grade 7 and 8 science classes escapes me. And you might want to check to see what else your school board doesn't believe in.

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