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Bringing order to the randomness

ewashburn's picture

 Lately, as a class, we've been discussing the idea of randomness, and how it and it alone guides what happens in life. There is no divine order; there is no "goal" of progress. Everything happens by chance, including the events of our genetic variance.

I've been okay with coming to terms with the effect of randomness on my life. However, in Anne Dalke's class today, we were discussing what and how we should teach evolution in high schools, and one of the topics that came up was this idea of the "undirected process of change"--otherwise known as randomness. As far as I could tell, we agreed that the idea that there is no goal of progress inherent in evolution is an important idea to get across. I personally, though, think it's an awful thing to teach high school kids, and it isn't really our place to communicate that. High school kids are simultaneously ego-centric and incredibly insecure; they think the world revolves around them, but simultaneously are on a quest to figure out what their place is in this world. To break the news that maybe, just maybe, nothing happens for a reason and who you are is determined by a random selection of genes, might not be the best idea. 

Therefore, I think it's important to teach the concept of complex biological systems to high school students, while introducing the idea that evolution is an undirected process of change. By learning about the relationships organisms have with each other, and the complex and incredibly intricate ecosystems that have developed across the world, we establish a little order in the midst of chaos, and make the concept of randomness a little easier for high school students to swallow--at least until they get a little more sure of themselves.


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