Students taking biology at Romeo High School in Romeo, Michigan may have been surprised at the question about genetics and DNA they saw on their homework assignment last week, but parents were outraged over the “who’s the daddy?” homework question they saw. The 9th grade biology worksheet was sent home late last week, and featured a question where a woman was trying to determine who the father of her child might be.
The question asks a scenario-style question where a woman is trying to determine who the father of her child might be, based on blood type. Among the choices are a mailman, a cab driver, a “guy from the club”, the man who installs cable, and the bartender. The question also asks why the state would have taken the child away from the mother. The teacher involved had been drawing questions from www.teachingbioformatics.com, which features questions using concepts students can relate to.
Parent Larry Basaj says he contacted the school immediately upon reading the question that his daughter Audri had been confused by. He says he felt that the question suggested that it was all right to not know who the father of a child was, because “the state will help you”. After contacting Romeo Community Schools District, both he and his wife had a discussion with their daughter about the question. For her part, Audri says she now understands why her parents had gotten so upset about the question. She believes that the question depicts women inappropriately.
The outraged parents tagged the “who’s the daddy?” homework question with a note that they do not teach their children to sleep around. Audri Basaj brought the assignment back to school the next day with the note attached.
Romeo Community Schools Superintendent Nancy Campbell says that the question will be revised to alleviate further parental concerns. She adds that the goal of the question was to help students understand the possibilities that could result based on parental blood type and DNA. She does acknowledge that the question may have been inappropriately worded, and could have used some more effective wording.
The site www.teachingbioformatics.com seems to be no longer running, and Campbell says only one parent contacted her with a complaint about the homework assignment. She notes, however, that the parental complaint has given the staff the opportunity for some professional reflection about the sorts of questions they ask their students on a day-to-day basis.
While teachers have to follow curriculum standards in all lessons they set for their students, there are very few limitations about the resources teachers can draw from in order to test for understanding. One of the limitations has to do with copyright, but generally, a teacher can draw from textbooks and online resources in order to design questions to test for student understanding. Under the Genetics section of Michigan’s biology curriculum, it states that students will recognize that “specific genetic instructions for any organism are contained within genes composed of DNA molecules located in chromosomes”. There is also a requirement that students explain “the information passed from parents to offspring is transmitted by means of genes that are coded in DNA molecules.” The “Who’s the Daddy?” homework question has outraged parents, both for its implications and its questionable wording. Romeo is located roughly 40 miles north of Detroit.
By Christina St-Jean