What students are exposed to in school, from sex ed to books by Judy Blume, has always been a tricky issue, and even I, as a huge believer that we shouldn't censor kids' reading material, can appreciate that there are lots of valid opinions on the issue, as well as legitimate concerns from parents. But let's all just come to a consensus right now that cartoons linking evolution, gay marriage, and divorce to Satan don't belong in a science classroom. I feel like we can at least agree on that much. Please.
And yet a biology teacher in Atlanta apparently isn't on board. As part of a lesson for her freshman biology class, Grady High School teacher Anquinette Jones used a powerpoint presentation which included a slide dedicated to a creationist cartoon. The cartoon depicts two castles: one, labeled "Humanism," is built on a foundation labeled "Evolution (Satan)" and has balloons rising from it with labels like "abortion," "homosexuality," and even "racism"; the second castle, labeled "Christianity," sits on a foundation labelled "Creation (Christ)." The people in the evil, satanic humanist castle are busy blasting away at the creationist foundation.
The implication clearly is that evolution is meant to destroy Christianity, and that if Christianity wants to save itself they should stop just trying to pop the balloons rising out of the evil castle and instead attack the foundational idea of evolution itself. Which, you know, is exactly the message you should be sending kids during biology class.
Overall, it seems to be a variation on the castle cartoons created by Ken Ham, who runs the creationism museum.
The powerpoint containing this cartoon was assigned to students in Jones's freshman biology class, and several parents and students complained about the content. One student, Seraphina Cooley, told the school newspaper The Southerner that, “[I] have gay parents, and [the cartoon] said that evolution caused homosexuality and it implied that to be negative, so I was pretty offended by it." A parent who had transferred her child out of Jones's class prior to the incident added, "I was offended, but more shocked and disturbed that a teacher in [APS] could get away with putting that in a classroom."
Even more troubling, the powerpoint presentation seems to have been downloaded from the school district's file sharing website, SharePoint, where it was uploaded by Mary E. King, a project manager at Atlanta Public Schools. While it's unclear whether or not the presentation, which also included "grammatical errors and odd illustrations including a photo of Octomom," has ever been used in Atlanta classrooms before, it can't be ruled out.
It's possible that Jones was unaware of the content of the presentation, assuming that since it was on the district's website it didn't contain objectionable content, but given that students told the school paper that Jones was consistently hostile to evolution, it certainly seems possible she knew exactly what the presentation contained.
In light of the controversy, which happened in May but is only receiving wider attention now, APS issued a statement that said,
It appears that this science lesson plan was not properly vetted prior to being uploaded to the district’s SharePoint website last summer. When the district learned of the PowerPoint presentation and worksheet that is in question, the lesson and supporting documents were reviewed, and they were immediately removed.
So at least there's that. But honestly, the fact that a cartoon claiming evolution is a product of Satan would find its way into a science classroom in the 21st century is pretty ridiculous. And people who don't agree should not be teaching science.