Creationist Rebels in the Classroom

How can we improve evolution education in this country?  Some suggest that new science standards will do the job.  Others suggest evolution educators need to get to creationists’ kids early.

Good ideas.

But there are also proud creationist teachers in schools, folks such as Daniel Brown.[*]  In a World Magazine article about the influence of intelligent-design workshops for teachers, Brown proclaimed,

When the culture tells me I’m not allowed to think outside the Darwinian box, it makes me want to think outside the Darwinian box.

Several teachers described their devotion to include creationism despite pressure to teach evolution.  Brown, for example,

avoids legal quicksand by teaching in a way that prompts students to do their own thinking. As a physics teacher, he doesn’t talk about biology, but introduces the concept of fine-tuning in the universe. For example, the Earth’s atmosphere blocks harmful radiation from the sun but is transparent to the visible light needed for photosynthesis. The Earth is an ideal distance from the sun to host liquid water, and our solar system is ideally placed to avoid dangerous radiation from the center of the galaxy. Brown ends such talks by suggesting to students, “It kind of makes you think!”

Another public-school teacher felt pressured to quit her job.  She told World Magazine she followed a “middle-of-the-road” path, but her principal accused her of infusing her classes with faith.  In the end, she took a less-than-perfect job at a Catholic school.  The school still taught evolution, but at least the teacher was allowed to praise the Lord in class.

So how can we push more and better evolution education into America’s classrooms?  It won’t hurt to have better standards.  It won’t hurt to expose more students to more science.  But we must start by acknowledging the durable and powerful cultural roots of creationism.

For instance, in spite of the tone of beleaguered victimhood of the World Magazine article, these teachers all received training and encouragement this summer at a workshop run by the intelligent-design focused Discovery Institute.  Such programs represent a continuing effort to prevent mainstream science from taking over America’s science classrooms.  Institutions such as the Discovery Institute will likely continue actively to promote various creationist ideas as good science.

Also, we also have to consider the stubborn effective resistance of creationist teachers themselves.  The teachers profiled by World Magazine did not simply stumble onto an intelligent-design dissent.  They eagerly sought out the aid of outside agencies in their continuing fight to promote creationism in their own classrooms.


[*] A pseudonym.

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