Monday, September 19, 2005


Gag Order?

"The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that represents many scholars who support intelligent design, opposes mandating it in public schools," notes an AP report, previewing the trial on a suit brought by a group of parents against Dover school board members who mandated teaching criticisms of evolution and an endorsement of intelligent design, there.

"Nevertheless, it [Discovery Institute, RSR] considers the Dover lawsuit an attempt to squelch voluntary debates over evolution.

"It's Scopes in reverse. They're going to get a gag order to be placed on teachers across the country," said institute senior fellow John West.

Of course, it's not at all voluntary when students find themselves in a classroom with a born-again teacher intent on evangelizing students -- that's what is more properly called indoctrination. Although it was many years ago, Red State Rabble vividly remembers our own experience with a creationist teacher and the evolution unit in our 10th grade biology class. Our public school teacher told us that Darwin was wrong, and the biblical story of Adam and Eve was right.

When we tried to make a case for evolution in class, the adolescent RSR was exiled to the library for the remainder of the unit. We were given a D for our trouble.

Contrary to what West says, there is no problem with voluntary debates over evolution. They go on all the time. West and his fellows at the Discovery Institute freely engage in them, and no one tries to stop them. Teachers are subject to no gag order. They may go into any public square in the country and talk about creationism, intelligent design, and evolution until the cows come home -- if they want to.

In school, however, teachers -- just like all the rest of us -- have professional responsibilities they must live up to. We give teachers an enormous amount of authority in shaping our children. We must be confident that when they are in science classes, they are teaching science, and not proselytizing our children.

Recently, we had a chance to sit down with a large group of science teachers in Western Kansas. They didn't complain about any gag order. And, like so many other teachers RSR has met over the years -- they were highly motivated and professional. They want to teach science to kids.

A ruling in the Dover case that bars creationists -- who have insinuated themselves on to school boards, many through stealth campaigns -- from mandating the teaching of pseudoscience to our children will be welcomed by the overwhelming majority of science educators.

If we really want to do something for teachers, let's give them a raise and provide them with adequate resources to do their jobs.


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