Challenges to Public Educators: Intelligent Design Has Place in Society, Not Schools

Charles Darwin, co-founder of the Theory of EvolutionWritten by Brady Granger

A battle is currently underway in Texas public schools over the teaching of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

In January, the Texas Board of Education voted down a mandate that has been around since the 1980’s that would require teachers to show the “strengths and weaknesses” of the theory.

This was seen as a win for those on the side of evolution because this particular amendment was attempting to place doubt in students’ minds about a theory that most biologists hold to be true.

However, the battle isn’t over yet. The final vote on the matter is scheduled to take place this month, and if the vote switches in favor of the conservatives on the board, it will have widespread effects on the teaching of biology in the rest of country due to the large size of Texas’s textbook needs.

Effectively, the near future of biology teaching in the United States will be decided this month by a 15-person board from one of the most conservative states in the country.

The Texas Board of Education should uphold their previous decision and vote against the amendment.

One state should not be able to exert an influence over the content of textbooks that all states buy.

The amendment, if passed, would also place a large responsibility on the shoulders of biology teachers and would most likely leave our state’s students with wildly ranging ideologies about biology in general and specifically, the theory of evolution.

On the top rung of the ladder of public education in Texas, the biology teachers feel that the amendment has no merit in the domain of scientific education. In a New York Times article on the subject, University of Texas professor of biology David M. Hillis is quoted as saying that the amendment “makes no sense to me,” and that, “It’s a clear indication that the chairman of the state school board doesn’t understand science.”

What most concerns me about this amendment is that it is a mandate that is said to be encouraging exploration of both the “strengths and weaknesses” of all different theories.

But it really seems to be a clever way to defy federal law that says the teaching of intelligent design is a violation of church and state.

I can’t see any way that this new amendment, if passed, would not result in wildly varying teaching methods and approaches to evaluating strengths and weaknesses.

Some students would probably continue to receive the same education about evolution as in previous years, but with a day spent on the new asterisk introduced by the amendment.

Others, however, might be subjected to teachers who regard the new law as a free pass to teach intelligent design. There would undoubtedly be teachers who fit into a range between these two extremes as well.

If the amendment passes, students would probably be listening to lectures on the merit of intelligent design, an idea that many people do not believe in.

Texas would be subjecting its entire public school student population to the opinion of their respective biology teachers. Students from different schools could have completely different perceptions about Darwin’s theory and biology. This would create a science crisis for the state because this integral basic knowledge will not be re-taught once the students reach college.

Students would arrive on college campuses around the country with a body of knowledge that is inconsistent with most biological thought. The Texas Board of Education should stay consistent with their previous decision and vote down the amendment. The theory of intelligent design does have a place in society, but that place is not in schools.

It is in churches and homes where parents are free to teach their children whatever they like. Placing doubt on a widely accepted theory would be a mistake on the part of the board and would damage the state of science in the state. The board should vote to strengthen Texas’s reputation in the sciences and to allow our students a chance at a future in their study of those sciences.

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8 Responses to Challenges to Public Educators: Intelligent Design Has Place in Society, Not Schools

  1. scott says:

    What “federal law… says the teaching of intelligent design is a violation of church and state”?

    Can you cite the specific law?

    Or is this just your opinionated interpretation and hence open to debate?

    P.S. I presume you don’t mean this is a violation of “church and state”. I persume you intended to say opine this violated some theory about the “separation of church and state”, and that that theory is based on the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to wit:

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    Interesting that you advocate a law “prohibiting the free exercise” of religion by restricting it to home and church. Do you really intend to overthrow the constitution? Are you so afraid of an idea you believe so easily discredited that you must legislate it away, and in the process undermine the Bill of Rights?

  2. Brady Granger says:

    Scott,

    This was an opinion article for the Megaphone, so it contains a lot of my own opinion on the matter.

    That law would be the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

    From http://www.acslaw.org/pdf/Intelligent_Design_White_Paper.pdf :

    “While the idea of teaching ID in science class along side evolution may sound fair,
    it has two fundamental, interrelated flaws: First, it would violate the Establishment
    Clause. The Supreme Court has found unconstitutional both laws forbidding the teaching
    of evolution and so-called “balanced treatment laws” that mandate the teaching of
    creation science with evolution because the purpose of those laws is to advance religion.
    Indeed, challenges to evolution have traditionally been pushed by those Christians who
    take issue with the theory of evolution’s challenge to a literal reading of the Book of
    Genesis.”

    I was using “church and state” as shorthand for the First Amendment, which refers to “separation of church and state.” This was an error on my part as I understand that not everyone shares the same colloquial shorthand. I apologize if this caused trouble with understanding my article.

    The Establishment Cause of the First Amendment refers to that which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” If my interpretation is correct, I am not advocating a law that “prohibits the free exercise” of religion as per the Constitution. For a religious person, they will are able to carry their religious beliefs wherever they go. I am only advocating that the teaching of religious ideas be done in places where it does not violate the Establishment Clause.

    In reference to your final question, I am actually advocating for adherence to the Bill of Rights. Sticking to the First Amendment and not allowing new legislation to be passed that violates the separation of church and state. If there is some sort of tangible evidence found to validate the theory of intelligent design, then let it be added to the curriculum. But until then, I will continue to accept the theory on faith just as other religious persons also do.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment,
    Brady Granger

    P.S. Here are some other sites I used when writing the article to build my background knowledge.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Establishment_Clause

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