Apr 26 2013

Backdoor Creationism

Proponents of creationism have essentially been banned from the public school science classroom. A series of court decisions has created a clear precedence that doing so violates the Constitutional separation of church and state. However, no one really expected them to quietly go away. They have taken on a series of strategies to continue their efforts to teach their particular religious faith as science in the public schools.

They endlessly are seeking end-runs around the Constitution. First they tried “creation science,” and then “intelligent design,” but these were both transparently just religious faith crudely dressed up as science. Now they are still trying “teach the controversy” and “teach the strengths and weakness of evolution.” Both have had some limited success, but I predict will also eventually die a legal death.

Another strategy is to simply ignore the law and teach creationism anyway. In highly fundamentalist Christian communities there’s no one to blow the whistle, and no one to listen. A recent survey found that 13% of public schools teach creationism outright, while 60% avoid controversy by promoting neither evolution nor creationism. Only 28% teach evolution as the unifying theory of biology (as it should be taught).

Of course, many parents just avoid public schools by home schooling or sending their children to private schools. Recently a quiz from religious private school has been circulating. It seems legitimate and pretty much tells the whole story.

For me this raises and interesting issue – can private schools teach anything they like? I understand parental freedom to teach their children their own beliefs and culture without government interference. That is an important part of freedom of religion. Here is my problem – parents are required by law to provide an education for their children. If they do not avail themselves of the public school system then they have to demonstrate that they are providing a suitable alternative (home schooling or a private school).

Here is a huge back door for teaching creationism – each state has their own criteria for private schools. Accreditation does not seem to be required. In any case, accrediting agencies are all private, and there are Christian accrediting organizations, all with little government oversight or guidelines.

The solution here is obvious, at least to me. If we accept the premise that the government can require parents to provide an acceptable education for their children, then we must also accept that there needs to be some standards to that education, or else the requirement is meaningless. What this should mean is that home schooling programs and private schools that wish to substitute for public education should be officially accredited. Further that accreditation should adhere to reasonable standards, which should include teaching science, and not teaching religion as science.

Public schools can engage in whatever religious instruction they wish. They can even have classes in which they teach children that everything they learn in the science classroom is false (there’s no way around the religious freedom issue here). But they should be required to teach actual science in the science class – this is what the mainstream scientific community accepts as valid.

Yet another backdoor method has recently come to light, thanks to the ACLU.

Hugoton Public Schools invited Creation Truth Foundation’s founder Dr. G. Thomas Sharp to teach the “Truth about Dinosaurs” at two assemblies next week. At least one of the assemblies will be mandatory for all students and teachers.

So, if you can’t teach creationism in the science class, just invite a creationist speaker to a mandatory assembly and have them teach it there. The superintendent of the school, Mark Crawford, is quoted as saying:

“I agree with the ACLU, in that, if a mandatory all-school assembly where creationist truths or creationist beliefs were expressed, that would be inappropriate public-school content, and that is not the case,” Crawford said. “It’s completely and totally school appropriate.”

This is transparent nonsense. The speaker preaches old-fashioned creation-science propaganda. He has nothing to say on the subject of dinosaurs that isn’t creationist pseudoscience. Even if he scrubs his lecture of any reference to God or the bible, the content is still creationism.

This is still an active issue. I hope the ACLU keeps up the public pressure. These obvious attempts and sneaking creationism through the back door into the public school have to be vigorously opposed.

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