VCU School of Education
Race and Diversity Teach-in
Featuring Dr. Leslie Jones, Biologist and Science Educator, Valdosta State University
Monday Sept 19th 5:30 to 7 Temple room 1160
Untangling Biological Diversity from the Social Construction of Race
If there is anything to be learned from recent racial events and the associated social unrest, it is the need for educational curricula to address systemic racism. Racial discrimination that goes on today had its origins in pseudoscientific studies, conducted by Europeans and Americans during the “Age of Imperialism.” In order to justify the abuse of people from other parts of the world, differences in appearance were magnified and portrayed as indications of significant biological variation. Those distortions are a painful legacy that can be easily refuted by a modern understanding of human biology. Recent progress in genomic research offers new evidence as to the superficiality of the relatively insignificant amount of genetic diversity that exists within our species. The characteristics of indigenous people all over the world demonstrate that there never were discrete racial categories and “race” has always been a cultural construct. Even though teaching in the interest of social justice is not a typical focus of science education, racism can be undermined by ensuring that basic facts about human evolution become part of the curriculum in K-16 education.
Leslie Sandra Jones describes herself as a passionate biologist who studied Equine Reproductive Physiology before developing an interest in Science Education while working at The Ohio State University. An undergraduate education at Mount Holyoke College solidified her interest in science, but it was not until her Master’s program at the University of New Hampshire that she ever considered an academic career. She teaches Evolution & the Diversity of Life for non-majors, Freshman & Senior Seminars for biology majors, and required content courses for education majors such as Integrated Science, Exploring Our Ecosystem, and the Natural History of Georgia. She created an integrated religion & science course called The Historical Basis of the Evolution/Creation Controversy as a response to the distrust of science among religious students in the region. Her most recent effort was to use an antiracist, evolutionary approach to an existing Human Biology course as the application of her current research on ways “Biology Can Become Antiracist Pedagogy.”