There is a cancer spreading across the country, threatening to infect our children where they are most susceptible…in school. I’m referring to the addition of creationism and intelligent design to our students’ natural science curriculum.
Actually, that’s a little misleading.
“Addition” means creationists want to teach it alongside the current proven scientific theory of evolution. What’s really being attempted is a replacement of science-based education with superstition and myth. What should be an institution of learning is fast becoming a home base for unwanted indoctrination.
This is not a fresh fight. In Tennessee in 1925, “The Butler Act” outlawed the teaching of evolution, allowing for teachers to be prosecuted, simply for doing their jobs. In 1958, textbooks were published including evolution, which, until then, had never been done. Nearly a decade later, the Supreme Court finally ruled that barring the teaching of evolution from schools was unconstitutional. In the 1980′s, Arkansas and Louisiana tried to sneak past this ruling by passing bills that would allow the teaching of creationism to share equal time with the teaching of evolution, and 23 other states unsuccessfully introduced similar bills. In 1987, the Supreme Court again ruled on the side of evolution, striking down the bills.
Over 20 years later, in 2008, Louisiana responded with the “Louisiana Science Education Act” under the guise of promoting critical thinking in classrooms. This Act allowed publicly-funded education vouchers to be used in sectarian-based schools that use creationism to teach children the origins of man and the universe. Tennessee, using Louisiana as a springboard, passed their own creationism / intelligent design law just last year (2012) again allowing teachers to use their religious beliefs to “educate” children, effectively ignoring any Supreme Court ruling.
In their February 3, 2013 newsletter, The Texas Freedom Network reported that the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) chair Barbara Cargill (R) was “pressuring publishers into including junk-science arguments against evolution in new textbooks.” Why is this important? According to Gail Collins in the New York Review of Books, Texas’ textbook influence nationwide is staggering, and will reach “due to size—4.8 million textbook-reading schoolchildren as of 2011.” To standardize texts, publishers need to conform to Texas rules or publish separate textbooks for each state.
According to Cargill, “Our intent, as far as theories with the [curriculum standards], was to teach all sides of scientific explanations…But when I went on [to the CSCOPE website] last night, I couldn’t see anything that might be seen as another side to the theory of evolution. Every link, every lesson, everything, you know, was taught as ‘this is how the origin of life happened, this is what the fossil record proves,’ and all that’s fine, but that’s only one side.” She went on to say that she thinks textbooks released for use in 2014 should have “softer” language concerning evolution.
(The Texas CSCOPE [a made-up acronym] curriculum management system is charged with standardizing when and which skills will be taught, and to standardize the curriculum statewide. CSCOPE is a Texas state agency.)
The Texas Freedom Network (TFN) President, Kathy Miller said the following in a press release issued last month: “These comments should serve as a big red flag about rubber-stamping her [Cargill's] reappointment. Senators must ask hard questions about whether she will pressure publishers into writing textbooks to conform to her personal beliefs instead of sound science and once again put the culture wars ahead of our children’s education.”
“State board members in 2009 heard Nobel laureates and other distinguished scientists patiently explain that no valid scientific evidence contradicts the consensus on evolution,” Miller said, “So if Ms. Cargill wants textbooks to include ‘another side,’ then she’s insisting that our schools teach something that isn’t science and that will undermine our children’s education.”
She continued, “After the adoption of science textbooks this year, the state board is scheduled to consider social studies textbooks in 2014. Those textbooks must be based on curriculum standards that Cargill and other board members adopted in 2010. The social studies standards are so controversial that they have drawn sharp criticism from the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which has called the American history portions a ‘political distortion’ filled with ‘misrepresentations at every turn.’ "The scariest part of all of that is that Ms. Cargill holds position as the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) chair. That means that her opinion carries a lot of weight.”
In the ever-growing race to keep church and state separate, we must continue to fight to keep bible classes from being held in public, secular schools. We must keep voting against creationism and climate-denying educators from trying to inject their disproved theories into publicly-funded institutions. And we will carry on the fight to protect our textbooks and our schools’ curriculum until we reach an absolute separation of church and state. Not because we want to prevent religion, but because it is our First Amendment protected right to enjoy freedom of, and from, religion.
Next week we look at an Evangelical group, calling themselves “The Good News Club.” We see just how they are using public school classrooms to teach children the “Word of God” in some highly controversial ways, and discover why it’s legal for them to be there.