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January 2018, vol 13 no 4

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Glenn G. Coats

Survival of the Fittest

Monday, Science Class. I introduce my fifth grade students to a new chapter. “Evolution is one of the most important discoveries,” I say. Then I tell them about deer mice, how ones that live in the forest are dark, and ones that live around sand hills are light in color. The children tell me all they know about cave fish. Their eyes are wide open, this is all new to them, and they are interested.

Tuesday. I explain that the formation of a new species from one that lived far in the past takes a long time. Dawn asks, “Why didn’t those dinosaurs with feathers ever learn how to fly?” We talk about Darwin, how he studied mockingbirds and finches, and how we have those same birds right here in the mountains.

Wednesday. Mr. Holman wants me to stop by his office after the buses depart, says it’s important, and not to keep him waiting. I pull up a chair in front of his desk. The principal is blinking hard and his face is turning red. “My phone is ringing off the goddamned hook,” he says. “These are simple folk who believe what the Bible tells them, Genesis 2:7 says God formed man of dust from the ground, and that is truth to them.” He goes on to tell me that the parents don’t want their children to hear about my theory of evolution. I explain that it’s not my theory and that I am teaching straight from the teacher’s edition. My throat is dry and I can hardly talk. “Go on to the next chapter,” he says. “You should have known better.”

beneath layers
of thick paint
a pattern of leaves