This post arises from an accumulation of observations of many people for whom an appropriate description would be “willfully ignorant”. I have in the past been described as being “fiercely analytical”. I make no apology for being that way, and it is by being that way that I write the first sentence in this piece.
Teachers have a number of legal, moral and ethical obligations towards those whom they teach. This includes accuracy of the information given, and making plain differences between facts, opinions and falsehoods. Such obligations also extend to anybody who seeks to impart knowledge to others. Search engines have made fact checking very quick and fairly easy. Anybody who fails to avail themselves of this is making a conscious decision to remain uninformed.
“But It’s Only a Theory!”
Words in English can have multiple meanings. The word “set” covers no less than two pages of definitions in the 1973 edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. The phrase “Theory of General Relativity” appears to be widely recognised. I have yet to find anybody who thinks that Einstein’s work was just a guess, that being another common meaning of the word “theory”. It seems reasonable to expect that any informed individual would be aware of that distinction.
For anybody who is not fully familiar with the theory of evolution, it is a well-substantiated explanation for the diversity of life on our planet. It is accepted as a fact in the scientific community.
The time has come to introduce Mike Pence and Christina Wilkinson, vice-president elect of the United States of America at the time of writing and headteacher of St Andrew’s Church of England Primary in Oswaldtwistle Lancashire respectively. Christina is on record as saying “Evolution is not a fact. That’s why it’s called a theory!”. This caused such a storm that Christina deleted her Twitter account.
Mike Pence is on record as saying in 2002 “The truth is [evolution] always was a theory [not a fact]” (YouTube video at time stamp 2:26). As far as I can ascertain, Mike Pence still holds this position.
Both of these individuals appear to remain uninformed.
This is not the place to try understand the reasons behind the choice to remain ignorant. It is a question perhaps best left to educational psychologists. The question that does remain is how can educators encourage future adults to take take advantage of the great quantity of information that is easily accessible. I suspect the answer starts with each child’s first day at school.