A proposal by an Ohio school district to add creationism to a list of controversial topics deemed appropriate for classroom discussion has ignited a debate over the separation of church and state among parents and a civil rights group.And Fox later gives us some details:
The Springboro Board of Education took comments on the proposal at a meeting Thursday night attended by parents, students and teachers. Some parents urged the board to abandon the plan, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to the board, saying the policy would violate the separation of church and state.
"Basically they would be teaching creationism to counteract the teaching of evolution," ACLU spokesman Nick Worner said Friday. "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."
According to the school district website, "evolution/creation," ''pro-life/abortion," contraception/abstinence, legalization of drugs, gun rights, and global warming would be among the topics added to a list of "controversial issues."Remember the list of topics in that first paragraph. It'll become more important later. The ACLU of Ohio sent a letter to the Springboro Board of Education outlining the constitutional issues surrounding the proposals - actually there are two policy changes. One for policy 8800 and the other for policy 2240. It is the second, Policy 2240, that dabbles in creationism.
Many "areas of study involve issues on which differing positions are held by individuals or groups," and all sides of an issue should be explored "fully and fairly," the proposal says.
My first question was the context of where these "controversial issues" would be discussed. If it was in a "social studies" or "contemporary issues" class, then what's the problem? As long as the facts are presented as facts (evolution=science, creationism=religion) then what's the problem?
It's how the board fails to limit the discussion in that way, is the problem. From the ACLU letter:
This policy appears to explicitly permit the teaching of creationism because "evolution" is on the "controversial issues" list and equal facts for the opposing viewpoint means classroom time spent on the religious theory of intelligent design (or creation science). It has been firmly established that this practice is unconstitutional, in violation of the Establishment Clause.Now here's the text from Policy 2240:
The Supreme Court of the United States has unequivocally held that so-called "balanced treatment" laws and policies which gave equal class time to evolution and creationism were unconstitutional because they served no secular purpose and instead had a primary purpose of advancing a particular religious viewpoint.
The role of the teacher in the presentation o f assigned issues is vitally important. All sides of the issue should be given to the students in a dispassionate manner. The goal is for the students to be taught to think clearly on all matters of importance, and to make decisions in the light of all the material that has been presented or can be researched on the issues.Giving sympathetic "science" teachers the room to do the "both sides" of the "teaching the controversy" thing.
But there's another point that Fox left out. Here's the complete text of the "controversial issues" from the policy:
For purposes of this policy, controversial issues include: religion when not used in a historical or factual context , sex education, legalization of drugs, evolution/creation, pro-life/abortion, contraception/abstinence, conservatism/liberalism, politics, gun rights, global warming and climate change, UN Agenda 21 and sustainable development, and any other topic on which opposing points of view have been promulgated by responsible opinion and/or likely to arouse both support and opposition in the community.[Emphasis in original.]There's a dogwhistle in there, signaling to Springboro's Tea Party element. Did you see it?
It's the UN Agenda 21. And to the folks at crazie central (aka World Net Daily) it's:
...a 40-chapter U.N. program to introduce fascism worldwide in the guise of environmental regulation.Confusing, until you take a look at the last time this happened in Springboro:
Kelly Kohls, who was elected in Springboro on a platform of fiscal responsibility two years ago, requested last week the district’s curriculum director look into ways of providing “supplemental” instruction dealing with creationism. Fellow member, Scott Anderson, who was elected with Kohls when the district was struggling financially, supports his colleague’s idea.And:
Kohls is the head of the Warren County Tea Party. Although she said her desire to teach creationism is not directly related to the emerging political movement, it’s not inconsistent with Tea Party ideals.Of course Kelly Kohls is still on the Board.
“My input on creationism has everything with me being a parent and not a member of the Tea Party,” she said. “We are motivated people who want to change the course of this country. Eliminating God from our public lives I think is a mistake and is why we have gone in the direction of spending beyond our means.”