5 Sneaky Ways Fundamentalists Are Trying To Slip Christian Creationism Into America’s Public Schools
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Evolution is the linchpin of modern biology. Young people who don’t understand it are missing out on an entire range of educational and career opportunities. Certain professional fields can be closed off to them.
Despite this, some public schools in America do all they can to avoid teaching evolution. Thanks to constant pressure from the Religious Right, many public schools are battlegrounds in a culture war that does great damage to our nation’s scientific credibility as creationists work overtime to slip their ideas into the curriculum.
Federal courts have been clear: Creationism is theology grounded in a literal reading of the Bible, not science. It has no place in public school science classes, and inserting it into the schools is unconstitutional.
But despite a string of courtroom defeats, the creationists will not be stopped. They keep repackaging their ideas and trying again. Ironically, their strategies seem to evolve.
Here is a roundup of the latest ploys creationists are using to replace sound science with biblical fundamentalism.
1. Pretending to teach kids “critical thinking” skills: A spate of bills appeared in states this year that purported to help guide public school teachers in helping students apply “critical thinking” to select “controversies.” Not surprisingly, the controversies singled out always included evolution.
Legislation in Colorado would have directed teachers to “create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning.”
An Indiana bill would have compelled teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the strengths and weaknesses of conclusions and theories being presented in a course being taught by the teacher.”
In Montana, a bill mandated that schools to encourage “critical thinking regarding controversial scientific theories” such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries.”
Oklahoma legislation would have required Sooner State teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.” Covered topics included “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
The similar language of these bills (which all failed, thankfully) is strong evidence that they come from a central source. The National Center for Science Education, a California-based group that supports good science instruction in public schools, has traced them to the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that promotes “intelligent design.”
Critical thinking is great. We’re all for it. But that’s not what these bills are about. They are about warping the concept of critical thinking and using it as vehicle to introduce religious concepts into the classroom.
2. Lumping it in with other controversies: Arizona lawmakers this year deliberated a bill that identified a series of “controversial” subjects and signaled them out for special classroom treatment. These included “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
Louisiana already has a law on the books permitting public school teachers to use “supplemental” material when discussing certain controversial issues, evolution among them. No one knows for sure what these supplemental materials are, but given that state’s constant efforts to undermine evolution, it’s safe bet On the Origin of Species is not on the list.
A school board in Springboro, Ohio, is considering a similar ruse, only its list is even longer. Once again, the idea here is to attempt to seize some type of moral high ground as proponents claim they are only trying to teach “both sides.”