Sabotaging Science: Creationist Strategies in the '90's


As with many attempts to limit intellectual inquiry, the Kansas Board’s decision to de-emphasize evolution may have done just the opposite. Says one high school biology and genetics teacher, "I think there is more interest in evolution now that this has happened…It (the state Board's decision) has almost backfired." An earth science and astronomy teacher at another high school comments "It's funny -- it has caused me to spend more time on this than usual….Kids have more questions."77

At the university level, two student senates have adopted resolutions condemning the Board’s action and supporting the teaching of evolution and three university faculties have done the same. Other universities are considering similar resolutions, and symposia are ongoing. These resolutions may gain legislative support: Kansas House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. David Adkins is considering offering legislation that would amend the Board of Regents university admissions policy to require students to complete coursework in evolution.78 Wichita State University minister Teri Messner commented “I have yet to meet a student on campus that agrees with the Board of Education decision…All the students are very passionate about having students exposed to learning.”79

These efforts are encouraging, and mitigate the predictions of Kansas students’ education prospects. But many anticipate that the vote will have a chilling effect, as schools and individual teachers are pressured to eliminate or downplay evolution. The leader of Project Educate, a Wichita group that supports the Board’s decision, is doubtful that creationists will make much headway in large districts but predicts that the Board’s vote “will encourage local people to take on local school boards” in smaller communities. She cites Pratt’s consideration of Of Pandas and People as a hopeful sign from her perspective.80

Beyond Kansas, the debate continues in statehouses and school districts around the country and shows no evidence of letting up. Kentucky’s reluctance to even permit the word evolution to appear in that state’s science standards points to the level of controversy. Though Kentucky officials say it is a change of form, not content, teachers are concerned that they cannot count on the state to justify teaching good science.81

At the core of this debate is whether we as a nation will stand up to support rigorous science education for all students. Every presidential candidate campaigns on support for rigorous, high-standards education, yet virtually all caved into the “local control” argument. Real education requires accurate information and free inquiry. Otherwise the recent experience of one Texas teacher will be replayed in classrooms across the country. This teacher says:

“[her students believe] that men have one less rib than women, and that the science textbooks are inaccurate in their portrayals of human skeletons…[they have been taught] to answer questions such as ‘Why is there air in the desert if there are no plants?’ with ‘Because God put it there.’ And if I count the answer wrong, I have hell to pay.”82

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