Friday, December 14, 2007

Coexistence III - Tejon CA

This is from last year, but I wanted to put it here lest we forget the changing tactics and methods used by groups to get Intelligent Design in science class.

In the lovely mountain community of Tejon, Ca the school board was presented with a class concept called "The Philosophy of Intelligent Design". Without a lot of detailed information the Board did ask their legal advisers if teaching this class would be legal and the reply was perfectly acceptable. "As long as the class is a Philosophy class that would be fine. In all honesty the Board only had about 24 hours to make a decision, I wonder if that was part of the tactical approach?

Well the school board gave it's blessing and a course description was given to the students:

"The class will take a close look at evolution as a theory and will discuss the
scientific, biological, and Biblical aspects that suggest why Darwin’s philosophy
is not rock solid. This class will discuss Intelligent Design as an alternative
response to evolution. Topics that will be covered are the age of the earth, a world
wide flood, dinosaurs, pre-human fossils, dating methods, DNA, radioisotopes, and
geological evidence. Physical and chemical evidence will be presented suggesting
the earth is thousands of years old, not billions. The class will include lecture
discussions, guest speaker, and videos. The class grade will be based on a position
paper in which students will support or refute the theory of evolution."
The teacher, a special education teacher with a bachelor of arts degree in physical education and social science with an emphasis in sociology and special education. She also had no training or certification in the teaching of science, religion or philosophy.

What was also interesting is the course was a mix of videos and guest speakers. The videos, 24 of them. 23 of the 24 videos are produced or distributed by religious organizations and assume a pro-creationist, anti-evolution stance. The 24th video has nothing to do with creationism or evolution; it is thus unclear why it even appears on the list. And this is a Philosophy class?

The funny part was that of the list of speakers purported to have been invited to speak, only two were advocates of evolution, the rest were all creationists and intelligent design proponents. The two supposedly speaking for evolution were Dr's Kenneth Hurst and Francis Crick. Dr. Hurst never received an invitation to speak and Dr Crick, Nobel Prize winner and half of the team that discovered the double helix structure of DNA has died two years previously.

OK, what I see here is a stacked deck. Not only was Evolution not represented in the videos, or I should say only represented by groups with a grudge against it, but the evolution supporting speakers certainly had no chance to actually speak. The teacher herself was ill suited to present a true class on Philosophy.

Well after parents complained there were a few changes. One video on evolution added, and the speakers list was left vague. The name of the class was even changed to "Philosophy of Design" but the parents were already alerted and took the case to court.

Rather than a large battle, this was settled quickly and the class canceled. The local paper reported that even the Discovery Institute recognized the original obviously creationist agenda couldn't be defended in court.

Look at the tactics! Short notice to the school board with ambiguous explanations, an unqualified teacher, and the syllabus dominated by a singular point of view. An attempt to sneak it in which failed and could have become an expensive trial for that school system. School Boards and Parents have to keep their eyes open or this might happen to their kids. Also apparently only 13 kids signed up for the class, and even though this was below the minimum number required or a class is canceled, the class still started and didn't stop until the legal action began.

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