In the immortal words of the great philosopher Alice Cooper, school’s out for the summer.
Here’s hoping the long vacation will enable a group of students from Cuyahoga Falls to forget some of the things they were taught this spring.
On one of the last days of the school year, a big yellow Cuyahoga Falls school bus was parked in front of the Akron Fossils & Science Center in Copley, just south of Copley Circle.
Giving your students a science lesson at the Copley Fossils & Science Center is the equivalent of hiring Alice Cooper to be your principal.
This “science” center is nothing of the sort. It is a paean to creationism.
Among other things, the center is teaching young people that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that humans and dinosaurs walked around at the same time.
(The correct answers, for those of you prepping for standardized tests: the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and the only dinosaur that has interacted with humans is Barney.)
I wrote a column about the place in 2009 after taking a tour with Stephen Weeks, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Akron. He termed the entire operation “deplorable.”
Weeks is among the scholars who have devoted their lives to learning about and teaching the progression of the human race, using the same scientific methods that have brought us this far in physics, chemistry and every other scientific discipline.
But the folks at this particular “science” center aren’t buying any of it — not even some of the most basic scientific concepts.
A display ridiculing the validity of radiometric dating is typical. In real life, students are taught that radiometric dating is a proven method of determining geological age by comparing the amount of radioactive isotopes present when a rock was formed to the amount that remains. The process works because radioactive elements decay at a constant and measurable rate.
So why would an educational institution bring students to a place that teaches the opposite of what is taught in its classrooms?
• The name of the place is deceptive.
• Educators are not doing their basic homework.
Cuyahoga Falls Superintendent and CEO Todd Nichols says that last week he wasn’t able to get ahold of the teacher who organized the May 30 field trip, but says she is new, and he assumes she just didn’t know what she was getting into.
She’s in good company.
As I noted five years ago, the name fooled the Akron Zoo, the Cleveland Orchestra and even COSI, the renowned science center in Columbus. All three groups contributed to a fundraiser for the center without understanding what they were contributing to.
As a red-faced spokeswoman for COSI said, “[We] respect all points of view, but not all points of view represent science. We try to present stuff with evidence-based science — if you will, of fact. Respecting the values of others does not mean giving those values equal time.”
The Copley school system was tricked, too. Not until after Copley-Fairlawn Middle School students made multiple field trips did school administrators realize what was happening — at which point they banned future visits.
The folks who operate the “science center” aren’t willing to take any of the blame for the confusion.
Now, wouldn’t you think that if people truly believe in their mission, they would be right up front about the nature of that mission? But when I asked why the place isn’t called the “Akron Creation Museum” or the “Akron Intelligent Design Center,” I was told that wasn’t necessary because their “science” deserves equal time.
“When you go to the Natural History Museum, it doesn’t say, ‘the Natural History Museum of Evolution,’ ” said Josiah Detwiler, who has worked for the center since it opened in 2005.
“Of course, they’re presenting the evolution model of origins there. And so we’re making a statement here that, you know, we are presenting science.”
He insisted that evolution is also a faith-based approach “because there are unexplainable aspects to it.”
Accepting the reality of evolution certainly doesn’t preclude a belief in God. Millions of folks of strong faith readily acknowledge evolution.
As Weeks noted after our tour, “The processes we use to understand reality are something He instilled in us that really differentiates us from everything else. We’ve been using those processes extremely well to make what we’ve made. And we’re using those exact same processes to figure out evolution.”
Well, some of us.