Sawyer talks creationism, education

Allison Smith

Department of Biological Sciences celebrates Charles Darwin’s birthday

State Senator Tom Sawyer spoke at Kent State last night as part of a week-long celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin.

Sawyer said he enjoys telling stories, which he used to explain his views on Ohio’s current education system. He spoke of education in the late 1700s through the 1950s to the system now.

“I think we are on the best path we’ve been on in decades,” Sawyer said.

But he’s concerned with how Ohio hires teachers. Sawyer explained that there are very few teachers in the system with degrees in the subject they are teaching. Those teachers are more likely to end up with a high school job than with an elementary or middle school one.

Sawyer believes the most pivotal years are in middle school. A lack of true understanding in a certain subject on the teacher’s part can impair a student later in life, especially in math and science.

“State after state has been reviewing math and science,” Sawyer said. “Ohio has been doing well compared to other states, but globally we don’t fare so well.”

In 2006 Sawyer was elected to the Ohio State Board of Education. He said it was an influential race because of the beliefs of each candidate. His opponent took an evangelical side, while Sawyer pushed evolution.

“People got very interested all over the country,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer spoke warmly of Darwin and a portrayal of him on a 50s radio and television show called “You Are There.” He recalled the actor speaking of how he saw things he had never seen before.

Darwin came to conclusions that only a few people had begun to think about, Sawyer said. Sawyer believes Darwin had a “genius insight that was a spark toward our understanding.”

Sawyer realizes Darwin’s influence on the education system. He said he suspects teaching creationism and intelligent design was some effort to create a level of unhappiness in deeply-believing evangelical households with education.

Sawyer said it may have been an effort to create a market for non-public schools specifically created for that reason. He thinks these are targeted at the families unhappy with the education system “into which those families leave their children.”

“There’s nothing illegal about that,” Sawyer said. “But I think that may have been part of the movement.”

After Sawyer finished speaking, Kent State’s Biology Graduate Student Council presented him with a certificate for speaking during Darwin week.

Sawyer has a B.A. in English and a Masters Degree from the University of Akron. He spoke fondly of teaching.

“Once a teacher, always a teacher,” Sawyer said.

Contact news correspondent Allison Smith at [email protected].