This is why we should do a good job teaching non-majors

Ken Klemow kklemow at WILKES1.WILKES.EDU
Tue Nov 18 10:18:40 EST 1997


Yesterday, my local newspaper carried a syndicated column by Thomas Sowell,
who is a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution.  In that column, he wrote
the following (I apologize for the length, but didn't want to delete

"We used to laugh at the sacred cows in India.  Now we have long lists of
"endangered species" that are sacred in the United States - even when they
are neither endangered nor species.  Neither owls nor squirrels are in
danger of disappearing, though some odd varieties of of each may be getting
scarcer.  But whole industries and communities are sacrificed on the altar
to these little sub-species.  Even when children are killed by wolves or
other animals on that list, the main concern of the environmental fascists
is to prevent "hysteria."

"When will the public finally say that they have had it with run-away
environmental zealotry?  Back when the Supreme Court made its famous "one
man, one vote" decision, it said that governments represent people, not
land or trees.  On of the signs of a return to sanity will be when we start
applying that to environmentalist regulations that sacrifice people's job
for trees, make bone-dry land off-limits to its owners by declaring it to
be "wetlands" and otherwise act like little tin gods arranging the universe
to suit their own vision and gratify their own egos."

My response to Sowell's bilious diatribe is that he betrays his profound
ignorance of several biological concepts, including the importance of
species diversity, the values and functions of wetlands, and even the legal
definition of what comprises a wetland.  According to his c.v. which is
posted to the web, Sowell received his bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D.
degrees all in economics.  I can only wonder what his coursework in
science, particularly biology, was like when he was an undergrad at

The lesson here is that at least some of our students in our non-majors
courses will undoubtedly have a large impact on society after graduatation.
It is crucial that we provide them with an outstanding foundation in
biology (and other sciences) so that they don't mislead others with
erroneous views about the living world.

Ken K.

Kenneth M Klemow, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
Wilkes University
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18766
(717) 408-4758
kklemow at

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