Proposal to Add Genocide to Science Class Topics in Maine Schools Raises Eyebrows

Evan Poellinger | December 5, 2023
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An adjustment of education standards in Maine that would integrate lessons about genocide into middle school science classes in the state has sparked concerns from teachers who question the merit of incorporating such subject matter into science courses.

According to the Associated Press, a proposed restructuring of middle school science would include examples of how science has “sometimes been used by those in power to oppress and abuse others.” These examples range from “the false idea of human hierarchies and racial inequality” to the fallacious ways in which some societies have “applied the ideas of natural selection and artificial selection to justify genocide.”

Proposals surrounding integration of sociological concepts and intersectionality into education are certainly not a new phenomenon. What does appear to differ in this case is that teachers, rather than parents, are primarily the group raising concerns about adding lessons about genocide to the middle school science curriculum. The Maine Teachers Association expressed apprehension over the changes, specifically questioning whether the additional material would cause problems for middle school students in the area of learning basic principles of science.

However, some of the teachers did not contest the practice of incorporating the lessons about inequality and genocide into the middle school science program. Biology Professor Joseph Graves, Jr. stated that he believed such lessons should be taught, but must be taught “in a way that is knowledgeable and pedagogically sound.” Still, others like Bowdoin College Professor Alison Miller feel that “this is not a shoehorn-able subject” and “asking teachers to do it without the context and nuance that it takes to take on a subject so large and so important is asking them to do it superficially or not at all.”

It remains to be seen whether teachers in other states will weigh the merit of including particular subject matter within their courses that is merely tangentially related. Yet, it seems that even some teachers are beginning to take issue with the incorporation of sociological topics into areas of education where their presence is of dubious necessity.