I've been a bit busy, lately, and one of the things I've been doing is trying to pin down just what exactly Kitten will be doing for her first year of high school at home, beginning this fall. I'm not at all nervous about homeschooling a high schooler; I was homeschooled myself in high school, beginning about midway through my sophomore year.
But one thing that does have me frazzled is trying to decide on curricula. It's taken me the last eight years to get a good elementary school curriculum organized, and now we're starting over again! I'm almost as bewildered as I was back when I was picking out overly-ambitious kindergarten workbooks for a little girl with serious eyes and a determined chin.
The serious eyes and determined chin are still there, but this girl isn't little anymore. She wanted to know earlier this afternoon how much a secretary earned in an hour. I gave her a rough number, and she went from that to annual salary pretty darned quickly for a girl who swears she doesn't "get" math. All I know for sure is she's looking forward to typing class, hence the questions about secretarial work.
But the difficulties haven't been in deciding about things like typing or other "extras." No, the difficulties have been centered around core curriculum materials. And one of the ones that is driving me a little bit crazy right now is science.
Granted, as a former lit. major I'm a bit wary when it comes to choosing a high school science course. I did fine, grade-wise, in science, but that doesn't mean much; I need the right sort of textbook or program to help me teach Kitten these complex subjects.
And I've hit a bit of a snag.
It's not that there aren't high-school science texts out there. There are even some that are specifically written for homeschoolers, by people who know how to design programs for students learning at home with some parental guidance. But so far I'm rather frustrated by one element: these books all seem to be written by creationists.
As a Catholic, I have, of course, no real quarrel with evolution. Sure, I don't believe that the soul evolved, and I also believe that if God chose to use evolution as His mechanism of creation, He still directly infused the first two human souls into a man and a woman; moreover, He still infuses each individual soul into each person. Our souls are not subject to the laws of evolution because they are immortal spirits, not something that will eventually and inevitably arise anywhere that evolution has gone on long enough. If there is sentient, souled life elsewhere in the universe, then God directly created the souls of those beings, too.
But Catholics don't have to reject evolution out of hand as one possible means God might have chosen to use when He created the world. Sure, Catholics don't have to--and shouldn't--accept evolution or any other scientific theory uncritically or in the absence of compelling evidence, either, but any sort of "hiding" of inconvenient evidence because we might dislike the theory on misguided theological grounds wouldn't be right. The Catholic scientist's approach to science should always be to examine the data critically and attempt to draw sound conclusions from it, wherever those conclusions may lead him. He need not fear that science will contradict his faith, because science and faith are not in opposition to each other, and, in fact, deal in completely different spheres of learning.
Science, for instance, can't observe or describe transubstantiation, but that doesn't mean that transubstantiation doesn't exist. It is a spiritual reality which transcends science, and if science could "prove" it, then man's free will to accept or reject it--or any other revealed truth--would be irreparably damaged. On the other hand, faith can't insist that particle physics be anathema as something which might damage a believer's notions about God's world. And faith can't dismiss evolution as something dangerous; it's no more dangerous than Einstein's theory of relativity.
Now, maybe someday some scientist will debunk Einstein, and we'll learn something new about the universe. And maybe someday some scientist will debunk Darwin too, by showing some mechanism other than evolution which God might have used in His act of creation--but there will still be a mechanism to be shown, if science is involved at all; science simply can't present "Fiat lux!" as something which can be empirically measured.
There may be some creation scientists who think that they have a better way than evolution to describe the mechanism of God's creative act--but thus far, the evidence for such a way has been scanty, and seems to be impelled by the creationists' faith rather than their science, for the most part (though I realize that there are exceptions). For a high school student, the bigger problem is that evolution is the currently accepted scientific theory when it comes to describing the origins of living creatures, and teaching otherwise means a decision to put the student outside of the mainstream of educational thought.
Granted, homeschoolers have no problems doing this, when faith and morals really are under attack. I won't use a history book that claims the Pilgrims came to America for mainly employment reasons, for instance--truth is at stake, and ignoring the Pilgrims' religious motivations isn't an honest thing to do. Nor will I use a "health" curriculum that is all about contraceptive use and encouraging teens to experiment sexually, because that is immoral and damaging.
But as a Catholic, I don't see evolution as immoral or damaging, provided the student learns that whatever mechanism best describes God's acts of creation, the key points are that God is responsible for our existence, and, as I said before, that in due time He directly infused the first two immortal human souls into one man and one woman, the ones we call Adam and Eve. Exactly how He chose to do everything else may be theorized scientifically without doing faith any harm; but pretending that evolution is on the verge of being disproved is, sadly, also something dishonest and misleading to teach children.
So I still don't know just what Kitten will use for science class this year. But I do know that I wish some sound Catholic scientist would start writing a truly Catholic high school science program, which accurately reflects Church teaching not only on evolution, but anywhere else that faith and science might intersect.