Remember learning FOIL in Algebra? Ask any post-Algebra math teacher what they think about FOIL and they’ll begin foaming at the mouth. It’s an annoying-at-best mnemonic because it only works for one specific kind of problem… and when the problems get more challenging, FOIL no longer applies (and students don’t know what to do).
The lesson here is simple: Catch phrases or clever sayings can be helpful, but they don’t replace actual, conceptual understanding. (I use them as infrequently as possible in my own teaching now.)
Ken Ham hasn’t figured that out yet. In fact, he’s proud of himself for indoctrinating children using Creation-specific catch phrases:
To help them remember that God created and that the design we see in life cries out, “In the beginning God,” I teach them this saying:
It’s designed to do what it does do,
And what it does do it does do well.
Doesn’t it, yes it does, I think it does.
Do you, I do, hope you do too, do you?
Yep, we’re all way more enlightened now. Who needs peer-reviewed journals when that tongue-twister tells you everything you need to know about Creation?
Not all of Ham’s memory tricks are that complicated, though.
In other words, it’s Ham’s way of not teaching children anything, since asking “Were you there?” is really a way of ignoring the mountains of evidence in favor of evolution. (Hey kids, were you there when Jesus died? No? I win.)
My favorite question to teach children to ask about origins is, “Were you there?”… I teach students to remember that whenever anyone claims the earth is billions of years old, they can ask that question God asked Job: “Were you there?” It is really a way of teaching young children the difference between historical science (beliefs about the past) and observational science (direct observations that build our technology), but at their level.
Ham argues that he also teaches children “how to think correctly”… without giving any examples at all of how he does that.
I’m going to assume it involves the Bible, another solutions manual that contains no answers.
By the way, I’m not offended by Ham’s methods because I’m an atheist. I’m offended because I’m an educator. I’m offended because I care about children.
Ham’s goal is to brainwash children with cute little sayings because those are easier to remember than the complex truths that explain evolution. Ham, more than anything else, is a marketer. He knows damn well that if he keeps telling kids that all the answers to Creation are in Genesis, they’re going to grow older and realize he’s full of shit. But if he hides that fact in a short, memorable line, they’re less likely to question it at all because they’ll assume all the truth they need is in the saying.
The kids who are forced to watch Ham speak deserve better than that.