Friday, November 11, 2005

Unintelligent Decision Part II: The Problem With ID In Public Schools

On Tuesday the Kansas Board of Education, after a 6-4 vote, implemented new policies regarding the teaching of evolution in that state’s public schools. The policies call into question previously accepted evolution curricula and pave the way for the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID), a sort of “not your mother’s creationism” creationism, in science classes.

The new Kansas public school plan allows Darwin’s theories on evolution to be called into doubt. I’m ok with this, as critical analysis and debate should be part of any educational experience.

Furthermore, it’s everyone’s right to believe in whatever version of the origin of man and the earth he or she wishes.

However, allowing ID to be taught in public schools is a whole different matter.

ID flies in the face of science. That’s reason enough to suggest it has no place being taught in a science class. Not that it couldn’t be discussed. For example, if a student brought up a question about it.

Certainly the intermingling of evolution and creationism approaches a breach of church-state separation. Which is where the problem of ID in public schools lies.

Public schools are so named because they’re ostensibly “free” (we pay indirectly, through taxes) and open to all citizens. But the more germane aspect of public schools is that they are attended by a diverse sampling of American society – many religions and races are represented.

An average public school has people of monotheistic and polytheistic faiths, as well as humanists, agnostics, pagans and atheists. As one size does not fit all – meaning there is no one faith-oriented practice that suits everyone – things like ID, morning prayers and other related matters are best avoided there.

Contrary to what some have stated, this does not take away anyone’s right to worship. It merely limits, to a degree, where one can do so overtly, and as a group.

No student would be prohibited from saying a silent prayer in the morning, at lunch or before a football game – all instances where some would like to see prayers spoken collectively, and aloud. In fact, it probably wouldn’t be possible:

“Billy, are you talking to God? The look on your face tells me you might be praying. You’d better cut it out now, mister, or I’ll refer you so fast it’ll make your head spin!”

Somehow the idea of this actually happening seems remote.

So, I think it’s safe to say: Pray away! Remember, God hears your silent prayers, too. And feel free to believe in creationism. But, outside of a private school or place of worship, don’t expect it to be taught.

No one has to check their faith at the door of a public institution. They must simply realize that once through that threshold they’ll be interacting among a group of people who do not all think and believe alike. And they must not impose their religious beliefs or practices on any of them.

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