Throwing the Book at 'Em
While high-profile court cases and acrimonious school board debates grab the headlines, the individual classroom battle over teaching evolution is what resonates most. Take the case of Pat New, a 62-year-old middle school science teacher in Georgia. She’s won several outstanding-educator awards and is one of only two teachers in her school to hold national board certification, but during 2004-05, she was barraged with complaints about her Darwin-friendly lessons. After students and parents asked when she’d stop wasting time and end the unit, she politely pointed out that evolution is central to biology as well as featured prominently in the school’s textbooks. Then the principal got involved, pressing upon New his literal interpretation of the Bible. But it was a meeting hosted by the school superintendent, during which New was badgered by parents, that prompted her to consider filing a grievance against the school. She told administrators, not for the first time, that she was a) following the curriculum and b) adhering to Georgia’s science standards. After a call to the state department of ed, the superintendent concurred that, indeed, New was simply doing her job. She was left alone thereafter and did not file the grievance. So why is New sharing her story now? Because after 29 years of teaching, she just retired.