Re: [asa] science education (was: YEC the default Christian belief?)

From: Cameron Wybrow <>
Date: Thu Nov 19 2009 - 19:29:26 EST

Thanks to Merv, Louise and others who have replied re Biology education.

Let me explain the disconnection that a Canadian (at least, from Ontario)
feels regarding the American situation:

In Ontario, the science curriculum is like this:

Grade 9: General Science (1/4 physics, 1/4 chemistry, 1/4 biology, 1/4
earth and space science)
Grade 10: General Science (1/4 physics, 1/4 chemistry, 1/4 biology, 1/4
earth and space science)
Grade 11: Physics (a course on its own); Chemistry (a course on its own),
Biology (a course on its own)
Grade 12: Physics (a course on its own); Chemistry (a course on its own),
Biology (a course on its own); also, Earth and Space Science (a course on
its own)


1. All high school students must take Grade 9 and 10 Science.

2. All students, even those not planning to major in Science at university
or college, must take 1 Science credit beyond Grade 10.

3. All courses beyond Grade 10 presume the knowledge acquired in Grades 9
and 10, which are formal prerequisites for Grade 11 courses. (One can get
into Grade 12 Earth and Space Science from Grade 10 Science, since there is
no Grade 11 Earth and Space Science course.)

4. Any student planning to major in any Science at university must take
both Grade 11 and Grade 12 Physics, and both Grade 11 and Grade 12 Chemistry
(in addition to a boatload of Math courses). No Canadian university will
accept a freshman student in Science who doesn't have Grade 12 in both
Physics and Chemistry, which means Grade 11 as well, since Grade 11 is a

5. Any student planning to major in Biology at university would be
well-advised to take both Grade 11 and Grade 12 Biology. (It wasn't
necessary in my day to do so, but these may well be prerequisites at many
universities now.)

6. The Biology unit in Grade 9 Science is all Cell Biology, with a bit of
introductory Genetics. No evolution is taught. The Biology unit in Grade
10 Science is all Ecology. No evolution is taught. Evolution is first
introduced in Grade 11, and taught again in some depth in Grade 12.


Thus, as one can see, Biology is taught at *every high school level*. If
evolution were taught in Grade 9 here in Ontario (which it isn't), it would
be easy enough to move the evolution unit up to Grade 11 or Grade 12 Biology
without disturbing the science program at all. Physics wouldn't have to be
moved; nothing would be touched. Merv's problem about wanting Physics to be
taught later is a complete non-problem in Ontario, because it *is* taught
later -- in fact, it's taught at every level! So at each level, the Physics
teacher can count on grade-appropriate Mathematical abilities (since all
students interested in Science will be following the Math sequence all the
way up).

Evolution is not discussed until Grade 11 Biology, *which no student has to
take*. So parents who are trying to "protect" their children from hearing
about evolution (who are very rare in Ontario, anyway) need have no fear.
And strident defenders of evolution like Ken Miller and Eugenie Scott need
not worry about the lack of evolution in Grade 9 Biology here, because the
kids who take Grade 11 and 12 Biology will still learn the theory of

It looks to me as if the problem in the American system is that in many
schools, Biology is only offered once, and only offered in Grade 9, and
therefore if evolution is to be taught, it must be taught then. Thus, there
is a huge political war over the contents of Grade 9 Biology. But that
raises the question: why on earth is Biology only taught once, in all of
high school?

An acquaintance of mine teaches at an American private college where there
are many Canadian students. He says that the Canadian students are much
better prepared in science generally than the American students are. So
maybe the American science education system needs an overhaul. Whereas Ken
Miller and others keep complaining that skepticism about evolution is
holding American science students behind the rest of the world, it looks to
me as if what is holding American science students behind is that there just
aren't enough science courses offered, and there aren't enough that are
compulsory for entering university science programs. I therefore suggest
that American schools adopt the Ontario model, beef up their science program
considerably, offer Biology at more than one level, and move the evolution
unit up to 11th or 12th grade. That should please everybody.

Next problem, please. :-)


----- Original Message -----
From: <>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 11:02 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] science education (was: YEC the default Christian

> I'm teaching at a Christian school, but this course sequence should still
> be
> fairly typical, I believe in larger public schools.
> 9th grade: Biology
> 10th grade: Physical sciences (this would include geology, meteorology,
> chemistry, physics, some astronomy)
> 11th grade: chemistry
> 12th grade: physics
> Other electives are also available, though not every semester or year such
> as
> Human anatomy, zoology, or botany.
> It isn't that students can't take these courses out of sequence ---if the
> scheduling allowed for such a thing (& in our small school --it wouldn't)
> they
> could pile up all four science classes in one year if they wanted, but who
> would
> want to do that? So in a practical sense, moving one science class
> elsewhere
> means encouraging the re-scheduling for another for the obvious reason
> that we
> want sciences spread out over their high school years.
> gotta go --time for geometry class.
> --Merv

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Thu Nov 19 19:29:57 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Nov 19 2009 - 19:29:57 EST