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Savannah Buskell

Policy Brief for Texas Board of Education

Submitted to Dr. Lena Garrison for Introduction to Evolution (BIOL-107)

Summary:

My project is about guidelines for teaching creationism and evolution in school, specifically Texas public schools. After lots of research, I decided that implementing NGSS guidelines was the best answer to the evolution vs. creationism debate in various forms of education. NGSS guidelines are a set of standards that dictate what is taught about evolution and creationism and how that material is relayed to the student. By focusing on this topic, I answered questions about the legality and politics of teaching evolution in schools, as well as what stakeholders (students, educators, science activist groups, religious groups, etc.) may gain or lose by implementing NGSS guidelines and other alternative policies.

General Education Connections

  • Communicate ideas in written, oral and other modes as appropriate to a situation and audience
  • Employ various thinking strategies to develop well-reasoned judgments
  • Evaluate sources of information for accuracy, relevance and reliability
  • Explore issues through creative, interdisciplinary and innovative approaches

The signature assignment required that I approach the project with a multidisciplinary skill set and a collaborative frame of mind. Creating a policy brief required written and verbal skills that were necessary for my audience (the Texas Board of Education), and included my ability to simply explain complex concepts. I also had to employ various thinking strategies and well-reasoned judgments in determining what policy was best suited for all stakeholders in regard to teaching evolution in public schools. As I examined the roles of stakeholders, it was necessary that I identified their roles as global citizens in a multicultural community because, generally speaking, different cultures hold different evolutionary perspectives and it was important to me that I respectfully kept this in mind when creating my policy brief. This also required that I educate myself on topics that encompass this information and recognize that it is important to convey related information both sensitively and accurately. In order to determine this information, I had to do sufficient amounts of research which included evaluating sources of information for accuracy, relevancy and reliability. Creating the policy brief required that I be innovative and creative as I pieced together written and photographic information in an easy-to-navigate format. Collectively, throughout the entire creation of this assignment, I demonstrated intellectual and ethical practices as I aimed to relay reliable information both ethically and respectfully, in an effort to improve community (specifically, Texas) wellbeing through proper education guidelines.

Challenges

This assignment wasn’t based on scientific reasoning; instead, it existed as an assignment about the use a scientific reasoning. This was challenging because I wasn’t prepared to think from a multidisciplinary and collaborative frame of mind. I was prepared for scientific reasoning that included quantitative data. However, the more immersed I became in learning about evolution-based policies and law and its potential barriers and outcomes, the smaller this challenge seemed. Additionally, I was challenged to educate myself on the matter to even begin my project, which seemed insurmountable because there are copious amounts of information on this topic. I am most proud of overcoming this challenge because the information on this topic seemed never-ending, yet I now feel I have a good grasp on it. Once again, the more invested I became in learning about evolutionary policy, the more the mountainous challenge shifted into a small molehill. The challenge I wasn’t able to overcome was including all the information I would have liked to in the policy brief because it had a page limit. I have always struggled with writing in an epigrammatic style. However, this is something I continuously work on in my daily academic endeavors.

Application

My signature assignment connects to my field of study because it is both community-based and multidisciplinary. My field of study is Global Studies with a focus in health and environment. The program is multifaceted and complex, just like the topic of evolution in schools. The assignment also relates to human geography, because I found that different beliefs of evolution and creationism exist in different geographical regions. In the future, I plan to use the same interdisciplinary processes in creating public policies (my career end goal) in the same way that I used to create this project. Specifically, this project acted as a clear example of what my ideal workday will exist as in the future.

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