Ever notice how creationism, the belief system that the Earth and life were created by a supernatural being, returns again and again to be debated as an educational topic? Well, it is having another go-round in the Springboro School District in Ohio. As reported by Fox News and the Associated Press on May 25, the school district is now considering adding creationism to a curriculum allowing “hot topics” or issues that can be debated.
It has been tried before. Kelly Kohls, who is president of the district board, proposed that creationism be offered as supplemental instruction to other courses. However, the proposition died after parents objected and the ACLU threatened legal action — which is much the same reaction the idea of offering “creationism vs. evolution” as one of several “controversial topics” being considered by the Springboro board.
“Basically they would be teaching creationism to counteract the teaching of evolution,” ACLU spokesman Nick Worner said the day after the Springboro Board of Education took public comments on the proposal. “Anytime that you promote or teach the beliefs of one religion over all other religions or beliefs in a public school classroom, that’s a problem.”
The ACLU has also sent a letter to the board contending that adoption of the topics list as part of the curriculum would be a violation of the separation of church and state.
The organization isn’t the only entity objecting. Parents again pleaded with the board to abandon the idea.
Kohl argued Thursday, according to a WLWT.com report, that the proposal was designed to allow teachers the ability to discuss controversial issues with their students. Among the issues, as can be found on the school board’s website, are evolution/creation, pro-life/abortion, contraception/abstinence, legalization of drugs, gun rights, and global warming.
“There’s a lot of controversy over other issues, but these are kind of the big ones that we want to allow people to talk about it in the classroom,” she said.
Springboro Board of Education Vice President Jim Rigano explained to WDTN.com that they didn’t want to see the students indoctrinated. “We want to make sure that all sides are being taught in a fair and balanced way and then, also, we want to encourage critical thinking.”
And therein lies the problem. With allowing creationism to be argued on a par with evolution, it is given the same credibility as theories adhering to and or substantiated by the scientific method. That is, they’re testable and are agreeable via testability or based on scientific evidence. Evolution, which has long been a theory maligned by creationists, is the theory that living organisms have a common origin.
Creationism not only rejects the ideas and theory of evolution, it also decries any scientific advancement or discovery that runs counter to the belief system. And unlike the theory of evolution, which adheres to scientific principles, creationist theories and tenets have no basis in science. In short, creationism is a system of beliefs that must be taken on faith.
Oddly enough (or maybe not), the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., is located not far from the Springboro district. The controversial institution famously exhibits the coexistence of humans with dinosaurs and makes the claim that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, based upon biblical time.
Even the Rev. Pat Robertson scoffed at the idea that the Earth was so young, although he embraces much the same religious views as creationists (for the most part). He noted that you couldn’t argue with the scientific evidence.
But creationism returns often to halls of education, brought there by the anti-evolutionists (what creationists were called in their earliest stages) and the literalist and fundamentalist adherents of the Christian faith. Pushing the idea that creationism is as valid a theory as evolution, they offer up the same arguments again and again that the two are at odds.
They are not. Evolution is science. Creationism is an extension of belief. To argue that they are equal competitors in a philosophical arena is to automatically deny the scientific values of the theory of evolution and elevates the idea that creationism is as valid and testable as the principles that uphold science. It is not. It is a belief system and nothing more.
And this is where people like Kohl and Rigano take their fight to install religious teachings in an educational setting just a little too far. In their zealotry, they promote ignorance and eschew the critical thinking they claim to foster. If they wish to offer creationism as a topic of discussion, it should be taught as a comparative study of religious beliefs or systems. Passing it off as science or the equal of theories founded via the scientific method is not only intellectually ignorant but does a disservice to the students. Because in this faux equality, creationism becomes offered alongside science as an equal explanation for the way things are and have been, something that couldn’t be further from the truth. Science is based on factual knowledge. Creationism is based on belief and faith. And offering creationism as a topic of study and discussion allows it something Hinduism, Catholicism, Islam, and other faith-based philosophies aren’t being accorded, which is equal time. Without that equal time, it is not an educational topic but an attempt to disseminate the ideas of a religious system. And it is this preference of one religious construct over others that flies in the face of separation of church and state.
But if the Springboro School District adopts the “controversial topics” curriculum that includes the creationism/evolution “debate,” it will follow in the footsteps of nearby Tennessee, where the state’s House passed legislation in April 2011 that, if passed by the Senate, would require state and local educational authorities, according to a posting by the National Center for Science Education, to “assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies” and permit teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.” That bill, House Bill 0368, is currently mired in a Tennessee Senate subcommittee until 2014.