Creationism on the Ropes

Is creationism taking over American education?  Nope.

Not at the Blue Ridge Christian School, anyway.

Readers may remember Blue Ridge for its fifteen minutes of fame last May, when a dinosaur quiz from the school attracted attention.

 

Image Source: Answers in Genesis

Image Source: Answers in Genesis

 

According to the Christian Post, the school is closing down.  After all the attention, school founders hoped to raise enough funds to stay afloat.  However, in spite of international attention, the school only raised $15,000 of the $200,000 it needed.

So is creationism taking over?  In this case, at least, it’s not even staying alive.

 

Dinosaur Quizzes and Beleaguered Minorities

Have you seen it?  The dinosaur quiz below has been making the rounds lately.

dino quiz

Source: Answers in Genesis

This seems like a good chance for an ILYBYGTH gut check: What does this quiz tell us about creationism and American education?  For fans of evolution, this quiz confirms that creationism is a looming threat.  For young-earth creationists, though, this quiz and its public career tell us that Biblical creationists have become a righteous minority, besieged on all sides.

Here’s the story so far:  This quiz apparently came from a fourth-grade classroom at a private Christian school in South Carolina.  A parent posted it online when he found out to his dismay that his daughter had been learning this account of the origins of life.

What does this tell us about the state of American education?  Depending on your perspective, it can teach very different lessons.

For some commenters at r/atheism, this quiz serves as proof of the creeping power of Christian fundamentalism.  One poster noted, “They’re teaching these kids how to respond to people who spread the ‘evils of the world,’ in order to defend their faith.  It’s just very, very sad.”

Another agreed.  “This is just disgusting, my goodness,” he or she noted, concerning the fact that so many accredited schools in the United States teach this kind of science.  “I would really love to see a full on description of what is required to be taught to remain accredited, and then see if I could develop a program based around worship of FSM [i.e., the Flying Spaghetti Monster] that would meet those requirements.”

For young-earth creationist leader Ken Ham, however, the brouhaha over this quiz tells a very different lesson.  Ham complained that the backlash to this quiz proves that atheists have taken over America.  As he put it recently,

It seems that since the last presidential election, atheists have grown more confident about having something of a license to go after Christians. These secularists want to impose their anti-God religion on the culture. They are simply not content using legislatures and courts to protect the dogmatic teaching of their atheistic religion of evolution and millions of years in public schools. There is something else on their agenda: they are increasingly going after Christians and Christian institutions that teach God’s Word beginning in Genesis.

The danger, Ham and his colleague Mark Looy warned, should be readily apparent: “the atheists want your children. They are aggressively trying to demonize and marginalize Christians in their attempts to recruit your children for atheism or secularism.”

So who is the victim here?  Is it besieged Christians, defending their schools against dominant atheism?  Or is it science and reason, holding out in a last-ditch effort to save American education from Taliban-ism?

I’ll go out on a limb and try to define America’s educational consensus on this one.  The overwhelming majority of Americans agree, I’ll argue, that private schools can teach whatever they wish.  But there is one enormous exception: schools cannot teach doctrines that will cause harm to students or the wider society.

Obviously, this kicks the discussion back to the definition of “harm.”  We will all agree that teaching students how to rob liquor stores will ultimately be bad for both students and society.

But does teaching creationism constitute harm?  To anyone?  Here’s where tempers get heated.  I do not endorse young-earth creationism, but I believe the harm it does to students and society is far less than the harm that would be done if steps were taken to coerce schools to teach evolution.  Let schools teach young-earth creationism.  Try to persuade–not force–people to teach their children evolution instead.

Smart people disagree.  Some folks consider teaching young-earth creationism to be no harm at all.  Others, such as physicist Lawrence Krauss, consider teaching creationism to be a form of “child abuse.”   

Whichever side of this fence you fall on, this dinosaur quiz and the response it has generated can serve as a creationism quiz, a quick check of your attitudes toward this alternative science.  Does this sort of teaching harm students?  Does this sort of education harm society?